USDA is Conducting Vaccine Drops to Combat Wildlife Rabies in Ohio


(Cleveland, OH) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s, Wildlife Services, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Health and several local county health departments in Ohio, will begin distributing oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits for wildlife in parts of eastern Ohio and surrounding states this month. ORV baits have been distributed in Ohio through aerial drops and by hand since 1997 in partnership with state and local public health agencies and others as part of the USDA National Rabies Management Program. This effort seeks to prevent the westward movement of the rabies virus most often spread by raccoons by creating a barrier along the Appalachian Mountains from the Canadian border to Alabama.

ORV baits are distributed using fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters, or from vehicles on the ground. The project is based out of North Lima, OH and will take place in early to mid-August. Approximately 888,000 baits will be distributed by fixed wing airplanes in rural areas of eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and the panhandle of West Virginia, including over 700,000 baits in Ohio alone. From approximately August 11-20, 2020, ORV bait distribution by fixed wing airplanes will include large rural portions of Ashtabula, Carroll, Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning, Stark, Trumbull, and Tuscarawas,and parts of Belmont, Geauga, Harrison, Lake, Monroe, and Portage counties. Baits also will be dispersed by helicopter in urban and suburban areas of eastern Ohio during the first week of August, including Courtland, Warren, Youngstown, Alliance, Canton and New Philadelphia. Lastly, staff will distribute baits by vehicle in a number of towns, including Ashtabula, Conneaut, East Palestine and Hubbard.

The vaccine distribution campaign in Ohio will use an ORV bait called ONRAB. The vaccine, which is contained in a blister pack, is covered in a waxy green coating that has a sugar-vanilla smell. The odor attracts targeted wild animals, such as raccoons, who eat the baits and are then vaccinated against rabies. ONRAB has been safely distributed in parts of Ohio since 2012 as part of ongoing field trials to evaluate the safety and immune effects of the ORV bait in raccoons and skunks. The vaccine baits have been proven safe in many species of animals, including domestic dogs and cats. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the baits. If found, leave the baits undisturbed. If a person has contact with a bait, immediately rinse the contact area with warm water and soap. Do not attempt to remove a bait from an animal’s mouth, as you could be bitten. Ingesting the bait will not harm your pet. If your pet has eaten several baits, the pet may experience vomiting or diarrhea that is self-limiting. For photos of the vaccination baits, please visit this Photo Gallery.

Rabies is caused by a virus that infects the central nervous system in mammals and represents a serious public health concern. If exposures to the virus are not treated it is almost always fatal. Costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies exceed $600 million annually in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the U.S. are in wildlife. People are urged not to make contact with or feed wildlife and to keep pet rabies vaccinations current.

For more information about the National Rabies Management Program, visit:

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