Over the past 19 years there has been a significant reduction in human and pet exposures to rabies throughout Allegheny County. This is largely due to the efforts of the rabies vaccination program for wild raccoons, spearheaded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (USDA), who the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) partners with for this massive effort. This year, employees and volunteers of ACHD and the UDSA will be distributing vaccine-containing baits from July 31st through August 17th across Allegheny County.
Baits will be being delivered both by hand from ground vehicles and by helicopter. The helicopters will be flying in North-South transects that do go over residential areas. As the transects are close together to ensure sufficient baiting, residents may see the helicopters moving slowly over the same area multiple times within a short period of time. As this could be alarming if the residents are unaware of what is happening, we are asking the municipalities to join us in getting the word out about the baiting and when it will be happening in an effort to minimize upset to the public. Hand baiting will be occurring from July 31st through August 10th and helicopter baiting will be occurring from August 10th through August 17th.
The enclosed flyer contains images of the two types of bait: One is a plastic sachet (looks like a ketchup packet) coated in fish meal, the other is a plastic sachet enclosed in a fish meal block. The fish scent attracts the raccoons who consume the bait and vaccine, resulting in the development of antibodies to the rabies virus.
The risk of adverse effects to humans and animals due to exposure to the vaccine is minimal, but we urge the public to avoid contact with the bait if possible. If a stray bait must be moved, it should be picked up using rubber or latex gloves or a shovel. We are also asking the public to keep their dogs on a leash, indoors, or confined to their property as much as possible during baiting and the week after.
In years past, we have specifically had problems with off-leash dogs consuming the baits in parks. Parks are common raccoon habitats and are therefore important areas to bait. This interferes with their intended purpose and concerns and upsets citizens. A sign informing the public of this information that can be posted in parks can be found at: www.achd.net/raccoon.
We are requesting that you help us to publicize the baiting effort in municipal newsletters, publications, and on social media with the educational materials attached and found on our website here: www.achd.net/raccoon. We also request that you inform your Emergency Management Coordinator.
Please let me know if your municipality is planning an activity such as a Community Day during the baiting periods so that we can avoid placing the baits within the celebration area.
We appreciate your continuing cooperation and thank you in advance for helping us to spread the word. Through this effort, we hope to reduce the likelihood of a human case of rabies in Allegheny County and surrounding areas.