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County to distribute raccoon rabies vaccine next week

| Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

On Monday, Allegheny County Health Department workers will begin to distribute rabies vaccine-laced bait throughout the county to inoculate raccoons.

This is the eighth year of the program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is credited with significantly reducing rabid raccoons. Two raccoon rabies cases were reported in the county this year, compared to 23 in 2002, the program's first year.

In the next one to two weeks, about 190,000 baits, which are both one-square-inch blocks of compressed fishmeal and plastic sachets coated with fish oil scent, will be distributed by hand in all 130 municipalities.

The bait will be placed in raccoon habitats to reduce the chances of human exposure to the vaccine.

If a stray bait is found, the health department advises people to pick it up with a plastic bag, paper towel or rubber gloves. If it is intact it should be tossed into a nearby ditch, wooded area or other raccoon habitat. If it is partially eaten or damaged, it should be placed in a plastic bag and put in the garbage.

If people touch the bait, they should wash immediately with soap and water. If a rash develops, they should contact their doctor.

The bait is not harmful to pets, but people should control their pets because if they eat the vaccine, that means there is less for the raccoons.

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