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An operation is under way across Northeast Ohio to stop the spread of rabies, especially in raccoons.
The Ohio Department of Health said rabies baiting will continue through Sept. 20 and cover 4,334 square miles.
Officials said Mahoning County will put out bait starting Sept. 4. Niles and Girard started baiting on Monday and the rest of the county will be baited starting Tuesday through Sept. 13, but there’s no timeline for Warren or the rest of the county. Columbiana County planned to land bait Monday in Lisbon, Columbiana and East Palestine.
Five rabies cases have been confirmed locally this year, including four raccoons in Mahoning County and a cat in Liberty Township.
In Girard, officials are putting the baits in areas known for raccoons, such as storm sewers and trash containers.
“It’s here, we know it’s here, so it’s important to get this out and to vaccinate the raccoons because they are the ones that are spreading it,” said Girard Health Commissioner James Dobson.
Ohio has dug its heels into the sand, spending millions of dollars since 1997 to prevent rabid raccoons from Pennsylvania from crossing state lines and bringing it to Ohio.
Debbie Mokosh, director of nursing with the Trumbull County Health Department, said it’s important for people to know what the baits look like in case they come across one. If they do, they should leave it alone unless it’s in their lawn or driveway. In that case, they should pick up the bait with rubber gloves or a paper towel and move it to an area of thicker cover.
The coated baits are about the size of ketchup packets. They are white and rolled in a brown fishmeal glaze.
Mokosh said pets usually don’t show any symptoms of ingesting a bait, but the most common sign is a pet that is not eating.
And while the ground baiting has begun, The U.S. Department of Agriculture tentatively plans to drop baits by helicopter in the area on Wednesday.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects people and animals and is almost always fatal.