Nassau County Department of Health Continues its Program to Eradicate Raccoon Rabies

Nassau County announced that it is working to eradicate raccoon rabies in Nassau County.  In response to the finding of several rabid raccoons in Brooklyn, raccoon rabies vaccine will be distributed by the Nassau County Department of Health and Cornell University in several communities in western Nassau including Cedarhurst, Hewlett, Inwood, Lawrence, Woodmere, Atlantic Beach, Long Beach and Valley Stream.

The Rabies baits are small plastic packets that are filled with a vaccine that immunizes Raccoons and prevents the spread of Rabies.  Raccoons are attracted by the scent of the bait and are immunized when they eat the contents of the vaccine packet.  The baits will be placed in raccoon habitats which include woods, bushes, streambeds, sewers and other areas.  They are not harmful to people or animals, but should be avoided and not disturbed, so that they can do their intended job.

Nassau County confirmed that it is not possible to get rabies from the vaccine.  The vaccine does not contain the rabies virus. It does contain attenuated vaccinia virus. This is a weakened version of the virus used in people for smallpox vaccination.

More specific information is provided below.

 What:  Rabies bait, which is attractive to raccoons and includes a vaccine packet.  There is a label that clearly identifies the bait packet: “Rabies Vaccine Live Vaccinia Vector.  Do Not Disturb, Merial, Inc Us Vet Lic. No. 298 1.877.722.6725.”  The bait packets have a strong fishmeal smell that raccoons love, but it is not attractive to people or to most other animals.

 When: The baits will be placed during the period of September 19 – 23, 2016, weather permitting.

Why: Eight terrestrial rabies cases were reported in southern Kings County during 2012-2015. Rabies virus has been reported during most years in NYC, presenting a threat of eastward advance into Nassau County.  This baiting and vaccination program is being undertaken to reduce the threat to wildlife and domestic animals from terrestrial rabies.

 RecommendationsThe New York State and Nassau County Departments of Health recommend:

  • Avoid inadvertent contact with the baits. Supervise children’s outdoor activities both during and for approximately one week following the bait distribution.
  • Keep all dogs and cats indoors or on leashes from September 19 through September 30. This will allow raccoons to eat the vaccine-laden baits and become immunized and will decrease the chance of pets eating the baits.
  • The baits are not harmful to dogs or cats, but a pet may vomit if it eats a large number of them. Do not try to remove a packet from an animal’s mouth.
  • Call the Poison Control Center at (212) 764-7667 immediately in the unlikely event that a child bites through the packet and ingests the liquid or if anyone has direct contact with the bait. Call if you have seen your pet with bait in its mouth.        
  • Wash hands immediately after bare-hand contact with the bait, even if the bait is intact, and then call the Poison Control Center at (212) 764-7667. The bait packet itself will not harm anyone.
  • If you find a bait near your home, but not in the open, leave it alone. If the bait is intact and out in the open where pets or children are more likely to encounter it, toss it into deeper cover under trees or bushes while wearing gloves or using a plastic bag.
  • Residents who see raccoons should NOT try to trap the raccoons themselves. Call a licensed trapper.

For additional information regarding rabies and baiting, call the Nassau County Department of Health at (516) 227-9663 weekdays from 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM or visit the department website at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/2048/Rabies or the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies.