An effort is launched to vaccinate raccoons against rabies in the five boroughs

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Department of Health, NYC Parks, USDA and Cornell University to distribute oral rabies vaccine to immunize raccoons and protect them against rabies infection

New Yorkers should always avoid contact with wild animals and vaccinate their pets against rabies

September 21, 2021 – The Department of Health, along with city agencies, federal and university partners, are launching an effort to vaccinate raccoons against rabies in New York City.

“Rabies can cause serious complications for humans and our pets, including death,” said Health Commissioner Dr Dave A. Chokshi. “New Yorkers need to make sure their pets are up to date with their rabies vaccines and keep away from wildlife. If you see an animal that you think is acting strangely, please call 311.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) wildlife biologists will distribute individual baits containing oral rabies vaccine, using bait stations or by hand casting, in wooded areas of the Bronx, Brooklyn , Queens and Manhattan until October. The Department of Health will also fly a low-level helicopter to deploy vaccine baits to wooded and swampy areas of Staten Island, and the Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn and Queens from early to mid-October (according to weather situation).

“Approximately 1.6 million baits are targeted for raccoon rabies control in New York State in 2021, of which 72,000 are designated for New York City,” said Dr Laura L. Bigler, Cornell University Wildlife Rabies Vaccination Program Coordinator. “Each year, 9 million baits are distributed by the USDA and many state / local cooperators in the eastern United States, with the ultimate goal of eliminating this very costly deadly disease that affects all mammals.”

The small brown colored baits have a fishy smell and look like a packet of ketchup that hides a small amount of pink liquid vaccine. Raccoons are attracted to the scent, and when raccoons chew the bait, they can be immune, protecting them against rabies infection.

The bait itself does not harm people, but in extremely rare cases exposure to the liquid can cause a rash. In the unlikely event that someone comes in contact with the liquid, they should wash their hands with hot soapy water, speak to their physician, and notify the New York Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 . The bait is not harmful to pets and cannot cause rabies, but it can induce vomiting if multiple baits are consumed. If animals find the bait, do not try to remove it to avoid being bitten and exposed to the vaccine.

Rabies is a fatal but preventable viral disease. It can be spread to humans and pets if bitten by a rabid animal. In New York, rabies is mostly found in raccoons. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system. If a person or pet does not receive proper medical care after potential exposure to rabies, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately leading to death. Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pets, staying away from wild animals, and seeking medical attention after potential exposures before symptoms appear.

Raccoons

  • Raccoons live in New York City and if they are seen during the day, be careful but do not be alarmed. Being outside during the day doesn’t mean he’s rabid, he may just be looking for food.
  • Do not feed the raccoons.
  • Observe raccoons from a distance.
  • For more information on raccoons, visit WildlifeNYC.

To protect yourself against rabies:

  • Do not touch or feed any wild animals, stray dogs or cats.
  • Store waste in tightly closed containers.
  • Stay away from any animal that behaves aggressively.
  • Stay away from any wild animals that appear sick or behave in an unusually friendly manner. Call 311 to report a sick animal.
  • Animals that have attacked, or appear likely to attack, should be reported to 911.
  • Do not try to separate the fighting animals.

To protect your pet from rabies:

  • Maintain pets’ vaccinations and keep them on a leash.
  • Keep your dog on a leash outside.
  • Do not leave your pets outside unattended.
  • If your pet has been in contact with an animal that may be rabid, contact your veterinarian immediately and report the incident to 311.
  • Feed the animals indoors.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal:

  • Wash the wound immediately with plenty of soap and water.
  • Seek medical attention from your health care provider.
  • If the animal does not belong and can be captured by authorized personnel, call 311.
  • If the animal is a pet, obtain the owner’s name, address and phone number so the health department can monitor the animal.
  • To report a bite, call the Animal Bites Unit (212-676-2483) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. At night or on weekends, dial 212-POISONS (764-7667).
  • For any information on medical follow-up, call 311 or your healthcare provider.

For more information on rabies in New York City, visit www.nyc.gov/health/rabies.

For more information on oral rabies vaccine, please visit the following sites:

New York State Department of Health:
http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/vaccfact.htm

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Rabies Management Program: http://tinyurl.com/usda-rabies

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CONTACT WITH THE MEDIA:
USDA: Tanya Espinosa, (301) 851-4092
Cornell University: Laura Bigler, (607) 759-1367
New York Department of Health: [email protected]

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