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Rabies Vaccination Program Underway in Western Pennsylvania
Date:8/26/2009

Aircraft-Baiting to Begin Sept. 2

HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The annual oral rabies vaccination baiting program, which helps control rabies in wild animals, is underway in 14 western Pennsylvania counties, said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff.

The program covers all or parts of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

"Controlling the spread of rabies in wild animals is essential to human and domestic animal health," said Wolff. "The number of reported rabies cases in these western Pennsylvania counties has been cut by nearly 20 percent in the last six years due in part to the success of this vaccination program."

More than 90 percent of the reported rabies cases in the United States are found in wildlife, with raccoons making up more than half of this total. Although the primary focus of the program is to vaccinate raccoons, other animals including dogs, cats, cattle, horses, skunks and foxes benefit through reduced exposure to the rabies virus.

Since early August, trained employees have been spreading vaccine bait packs by hand in densely populated areas of northwestern Pennsylvania. Hand-baiting will also take place in many southwestern Pennsylvania counties from Aug. 24( )- 28. Beginning Sept. 2, low-flying aircraft will drop bait in sparsely populated areas.

The vaccine pack is coated or placed inside fishmeal bait. When an animal punctures the sealed plastic package, the pink-colored vaccine is released into its mouth.

The vaccine contains only a small, non-infective portion of the rabies virus. The bait does not pose an immediate health risk to humans or pets, but anyone who finds the bait should avoid handling it unless found where children or pets play. Bait can be moved or disposed of with gloves.

Six agencies are partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services for this program, including the state departments of Agriculture and Health, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Erie County Health Department, Allegheny Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control.

For more information about the oral rabies vaccination baiting program, visit www.agriculture.state.pa.us, or contact one of the following agencies:

USDA Wildlife Services

1-866-487-3297

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

717-783-9550

Pennsylvania Department of Health Information Line

1-877-PA-HEALTH

Erie County Department of Health

814-451-6700

Allegheny County Department of Health

412-687-2243

    CONTACT:
    Justin Fleming
    (717) 787-5085


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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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