The Portage County Health Department, in conjunction with the Ohio Departments of Health and Natural Resources, began its fall oral raccoon rabies vaccination operation in Aurora and Streetsboro earlier this week.
The baiting is done in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Portage County Health Department Environmental Services employees are manually distributing the vaccine, which is enclosed in a 2-by-2-inch brown cube bait that has a fishy smell.
Residents should avoid the baits and keep pets confined during the baiting period. In particular, dogs are attracted to the baits and will occasionally eat them. The baits are not harmful to pets.
Most of the baits disappear within 24 hours; however it is important that raccoons have every opportunity to eat them. Portage County Health Department Environmental Services employees make every effort to throw baits into deep brush and wooded areas.
If baits are found in areas frequented by pets or children, the department advises residents to toss them into a remote area frequented by raccoons. Anyone handling baits should wear gloves or use a paper towel.
If a person's skin is exposed to the vaccine (appears as a red liquid), thoroughly wash hands with soap and water, the health department advises.
The operation is part of a National Oral Rabies Vaccination program, which has been conducted in Ohio and other states since 1997.
Through Sept. 20, vaccine also will be dropped from low-flying U.S. Department of Agriculture airplanes. The air-dropped vaccine is in a dark green, sweet-smelling, waxy-coated blister pack about 1 by 2 inches in size.
Rabies exposures in Portage County should be reported to the Portage County Health Department at 330-296-9919. Questions about baiting and vaccine exposures should be directed to the ODH information hotline at 1-888-722-4371.