BEAVER TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making a stop in the Valley to fight against rabies by dropping vaccines for the virus all over Northeast Ohio.
The department is taking to the skies in planes and helicopters to drop the rabies vaccines, which look like ketchup packets. Around 4:30 p.m., five planes flew in after a nearly three-hour flight.
“I’m looking for objects such as roads, buildings, waterways — things I don’t want to hit with the baits — and looking for places raccoons would be,” said biologist and navigator Shawn Orndorff.
The program started in the ’90s to stop the spread of the virus. Since then, there’s been a big decrease in the number of rabies cases.
The USDA will be dropping 1.5 million of the vaccines over the next five days through 9,000 miles of Ohio. It’ll also be throwing brown square vaccines out of cars to cover more ground.
The vaccines give off a fishy smell because they’re covered in a fish oil crumble to get the animal to eat it.
But what’s appetizing to raccoons isn’t meant for humans or household pets.
While not deadly to pets, the USDA says if a pet eats too much of the bait, they could get sick.
If you do happen to come across one of the packets, don’t touch it with your bare hands — find gloves. The oils from your hands could cause raccoons and other animals to avoid the bait.
“If they find one, pick it up and put it over in the woods or somewhere where wildlife will find it, away from their pets,” said Betsy Haley, with the USDA.
The USDA also says you should never approach a rabid animal. If one bites you or a pet, go to the doctor or veterinarian right away.
“If it does charge you, contact the health department and get medical treatment immediately,” Haley said.
There have been no reported cases of rabies in Trumbull, Mahoning, or Columbiana counties so far this year.
Editor’s note: This story has been clarified to say that while not unsafe to pets, rabies baits are not recommended for human or a pet’s consumption.