Niagara County Department of Health Joins Cooperative Effort to Wipe out Terrestrial Rabies

The Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division is part of a collaborative effort to prevent the spread of rabies in the Western New York region through dissemination of oral rabies vaccine (ORV). The ORV project is led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. ORV field evaluations began in 1997 and the ongoing project continues to address operational questions related to bait density, distribution methods and effectiveness in raccoons, skunks, and other wildlife. In addition to the eight Western NY counties (including Niagara), bait will be distributed in northern NY and six other states (including portions of Vermont, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Tennessee). Locally, Niagara County has participated this continuing multi-year study since its inception.

The field test includes hand and aerial distribution of rabies vaccine-containing baits. “Hand baiting in areas of Niagara Falls and helicopter distribution in more densely populated areas has already been completed,” said Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton. Fixed wing aircraft distribution over more rural areas will occur from August 16-18. The initial start date of August 15 was delayed due to weather.

Raccoons are vaccinated against rabies when they eat the wildlife rabies vaccine that is contained in the baits. During the baiting period, residents may see and hear low-flying aircraft over Niagara and other Western NY Counties (including Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming). The ONRAB bait consists of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) blister pack, containing the rabies vaccine. To make the bait attractive, the blister pack containing the vaccine is coated with a sweet attractant. When an animal bites into one of the baits, it will release the vaccine into their mouth and, with an adequate dose, develop immunity to rabies. If you find ORV baits, leave them alone, unless they are found where children or pets play.

If residents have additional questions related to the ORV ONRAB field trial, contact the Environmental Health Division at (716) 439-7444.

Additional ORV Recommendations:

  • WASH YOUR HANDS IMMEDIATELY if you come into direct contact with the vaccine or bait, then call 1-888-574-6656.
  • Supervise children’s outdoor activities during bait distribution and for one week following bait distribution.
  • Confine dogs and cats indoors and observe leash laws during the bait distribution interval and for one week afterward. This will increase the probability of raccoon vaccination and will decrease the chance of pets finding the baits.
  • The baits and vaccines are not harmful to domestic animals; however, an animal may vomit if it consumes several baits. DO NOT RISK BEING BITTEN WHILE TRYING TO REMOVE A BAIT FROM YOUR PET’S MOUTH.
  • Call (1-888-574-6656) if you see your pet with bait in its mouth and cannot read the label.
  • If baits are observed in the environment, please leave them alone. Labels identify the bait: “Rabies Vaccine DO NOT EAT, Live adenovirus vector. MNR 1-888-574-6656”.
  • If a bait is intact and out in the open where pets or children may find it, please toss the bait under trees or bushes. Wear gloves or use a plastic bag to pick up the bait.
  • If a bait is broken and the liquid vaccine is visible, wear gloves, and cover the bait and affected area with a 1:10 solution of bleach and water, place the bait in a plastic bag, and dispose of the bag in the household trash.

“Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of raccoons, skunks and other mammals, including people. Rabies continues to be a serious public health concern, and fatal in unvaccinated animals,” explained Public Health Director, Daniel Stapleton. “Members of our Niagara County community can help by monitoring their children and pets, and by keeping pets up to date with rabies vaccinations,” he advised. The Environmental Division offers free rabies clinics 5 times a year. The next clinic is September 16, 2023 at the Town of Lockport Highway Garage, 6560 Dysinger Road. Pre-registration will be required. The complete rabies clinic schedule on our webpage at: Follow the “Rabies Information” icon.