The prevention of a very serious and deadly disease is underway. The USDA will be spending the next few months spreading rabies oral vaccine baits throughout Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. On Monday, the baits were spread through St. Lawrence County. Public health officials told our Cara Thomas that this method has proven successful over the years and has kept residents and their pets safe.
ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. -- Each year the USDA deploys hundreds of thousands of rabies oral vaccination baits to help stop the spread of this infectious disease. And on Monday, baits were spread across Northern New York, including all of St. Lawrence County.
Myrna Barney, St. Lawrence County's Public Health Sanitarian, said, "We do have rabies in the area. We have two confirmed cases of terrestrial rabies and one case of bat rabies. So we use the baits to stop the spread of that."
"It's going to protect the community, the domestic animals and you know the children if they're bitten by the animals," said Potsdam's Highway Superintendent, John Keleher.
The baits are only a little bigger than a quarter. It's encased by a block of fish or dog meal with a packet of liquid vaccine inside.
"When the animal bites into the packet it releases the liquid and they swallow it and become vaccinated in that manner," says Barney.
Early Monday morning, planes flew over the county, deploying more than 80,000 baits into wooded areas. The rest are distributed by hand by 10 participating municipalities.
"Today what we're going to do is start putting baits out in areas that aren't able to be accessible by the aerial drop in the village here in Potsdam," said Keleher.
The baits will be placed every few feet into swap areas or waterways where wild animals can be found. Public health officials say the baits are not dangerous for most people. But there are some precautions to take before handling one.
Barney said, "We do advise anyone who is immuno-compromised or pregnant not to handle the baits. If you do come across a bait that's in your yard or an area not likely to be visited by wild animals you should remove it."
Officials say if you need to remove the bait from your yard to use gloves or a plastic bag to pick up the bait and wash your hands with warm water if it touches your skin. And for pets, they say eating the bait won't hurt them, but it may give them a stomach ache.
For questions about the rabies vaccine baits call your local Public Health Department. There is also a phone number on the bait itself.