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Rabies Vaccination Program Underway in Western Pennsylvania
Date:9/2/2008

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An annual program that helps control rabies in wild animals is underway in western Pennsylvania, Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff said today.

The oral rabies vaccination baiting 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 vaccination program has been an effective tool in minimizing the spread of rabies and it has reduced the number of reported cases by nearly 60 percent over the past five years."

Wildlife rabies accounts for more than 90 percent of the reported rabies cases in the United States, with raccoons accounting for more than half of this total. Although the primary focus is to vaccinate raccoons, other animals -- including dogs, cats, cattle, horses, skunks and foxes -- may also benefit from the program due to reduced exposure to raccoons infected with the rabies virus.

Since July, trained employees have spread bait sachets by hand in densely populated areas. On Aug. 30, low-flying aircraft began dropping sachets in sparsely populated areas. The vaccine sachet is coated or placed inside fishmeal bait. When the raccoon 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 finding the bait should avoid handling it unless it is 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 Dep
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
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