Responding to a recent rabies report in Queens, the Nassau County Department of Health, in conjunction with Cornell University, will begin distributing the raccoon rabies vaccine in the northwestern portion of the county Monday.
Weather permitting, truck distribution of the rabies bait, which includes a vaccine packet, will be from Sept. 24-Oct. 19 in raccoon habitats, including woods, bushes, streambeds, sewers and other areas. The scent of the bait attracts raccoons, which become immunized when they eat the contents of the vaccine packet.
Distribution will take place in the following Town of North Hempstead communities:
Town of North Hempstead: Albertson, Baxter Estates, Carle Place, East Hills, East Williston, Floral Park, Flower Hill, Garden City Park, Glenwood Landing, Great Neck, Great Neck, Great Neck Estates, Great Neck Gardens, Great Neck Plaza, Greenvale, Harbor Hills, Herricks, Kensington, Kings Point, Lake Success, Manhasset, Manhasset Hills, Manorhaven, Mineola, Munsey Park, New Hyde Park, North Hills, North New Hyde Park, Old Westbury, Plandome, Plandome Heights, Plandome Manor, Port Washington, Port Washington North, Roslyn, Roslyn Estates, Roslyn Harbor, Roslyn Heights, Russell Gardens, Saddle Rock, Saddle Rock Estates, Sands Point, Searingtown, Thomaston, University Gardens, Westbury and Williston Park.
Health officials say a label clearly identifies the bait packet: “Rabies Vaccine Live Vaccinia Vector. Do Not Disturb, Merial, Inc Us Vet Lic. No. 298 1-877-722-6725."
Rabies, which is a viral infection affecting the nervous system of raccoons and other mammals, including humans, is always fatal once clinical signs of infection occur. Vaccination will greatly decrease the chance of human and domestic animal contact with rabid raccoons. Rabies is transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. However, the virus may also be transmitted when the saliva of a rabid animal comes into contact with cut, open or scratched skin lesions, health officials say.
- To avoid inadvertent contact with the baits, supervise children’s outdoor activities both during and for approximately one week following the bait distribution.
- Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately in the unlikely event that a child bites through the packet and ingests the liquid or if there is any human contact with the bait.
- Wash hands immediately before calling to report the exposure if anyone comes in bare-hand contact with the bait (even if the bait is intact.) The bait packet itself will not harm anyone.
- Keep all dogs and cats indoors or on leashes during the oral bait distribution and for about a week afterwards. This will allow raccoons to eat the vaccine-laden baits and become immunized and will decrease the chance of pets eating the baits. Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you have seen your pet with bait in its mouth.
- The baits are not harmful to dogs or cats, but a pet may vomit if they eat a large number of them. Do not try to remove a packet from an animal’s mouth.
- Remember that it is not possible to get rabies from the vaccine. The vaccine does not contain the rabies virus. It does contain attenuated vaccinia virus. This is a weakened version of the virus used in people for smallpox vaccination.
- If residents find bait near their homes, but not in the open, leave it alone. The bait packets have a strong fishmeal smell that is not attractive to people or to most other animals.
- If the bait is intact and out in the open where pets or children are more likely to encounter it, toss it into deeper cover under trees or bushes while wearing gloves or using a plastic bag.
- Residents who see raccoons should not try to trap the raccoons themselves. Call a licensed trapper.
For additional information regarding rabies and baiting and communities outside of North Hempstead, call the Nassau County Department of Health at 516-227-9663 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., visit the department's website or the state's website.