STEUBENVILLE - The Ohio Department of Health announced the annual rabies baiting program began Monday and will continue through Sept. 20 across the eastern portion of the state, including all of Jefferson County and parts of Harrison and Carroll counties.
The oral rabies vaccination operations will take place during the next month in 14 Northeast and Eastern Ohio counties. Baiting will cover 4,334 square miles of the state's northeastern and eastern border.
So far in 2013, five cases of raccoon rabies have been confirmed, including four raccoons in Mahoning County and one cat in Trumbull County.
The baiting program is a partnership among the state and local health departments, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Wildlife Services programs.
The baits will be distributed from aircraft and placed by hand. The hand baiting should be completed by the end of the week in Jefferson County, according to the Jefferson County Health Department.
The state health department reported the coated sachet, which will be distributed by aircraft, is about the size of a ketchup packet. It is white and rolled in a brown fishmeal glaze. In urban areas, where baits will be distributed by hand, the sachet will be inside a hard, brown fishmeal block, about 2-inches square.
Parents are asked to tell children to leave the baits alone.
Dogs and cats should be kept inside or on leashes for up to five days after an area is baited. Most baits disappear within 24 hours, however, it is important raccoons have every opportunity to eat them, the state health department reported.
Anyone handling baits should wear gloves. If baits are found in areas frequented by pets or children, toss them into deeper cover. Damaged baits can be disposed of in the trash.
If a person is exposed to the vaccine (liquid), thoroughly wash any areas of the skin that came into contact with the vaccine with soap and water, the state health department reported.
The state health department has participated in the program since 1997 and almost 15 million baits have been distributed in Ohio during that time. The goal of the program is to create a vaccination barrier so rabies doesn't proceed further west.