On Aug. 6, a pet dog killed a raccoon in Brookville. The raccoon was collected by a wildlife trapper, taken to a local animal hospital and shipped to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) laboratory for testing. The raccoon tested positive for raccoon rabies. On Aug. 24, the NYSDOH confirmed that two additional raccoons captured in Nassau County tested positive for rabies, bringing the total to three rabid raccoons. Based on these results, the county and state health departments will expand their efforts to control terrestrial rabies on Long Island.
"Long Island has been essential rabies-free for decades and our best chance of remaining rabies-free is an aggressive program to immunize raccoons while continuing intensive surveillance for sick animals," said Dr. David M. Ackman, commissioner of health. "Starting [this week], the New York State Department of Health will begin trapping and vaccinating animals in a two-mile radius around the area where the first rabid raccoon was detected, similar to what New York State is doing in other counties. In early September, we will enlarge the vaccination program by distributing raccoon bait across a large portion of the Town of Oyster Bay. The bait contains a rabies vaccine that will immunize any raccoon that eats it. Our goal is prevent the establishment of terrestrial rabies on Long Island by capturing enough sick raccoons and vaccinating a substantial percentage of healthy raccoons."
Vaccinating raccoons is a two-part program. First, in the Trap-Vaccinate-Release (TVR) procedure, raccoons are trapped and if they appear healthy they are vaccinated and released. Sick animals are euthanized and tested for rabies. This program is followed by (2) an Oral Rabies Vaccine (ORV) distribution. ORV involves finger-size packets of baited vaccine, which are distributed in a designated area by hand and by helicopter.
The TVR procedure began on Monday, Aug. 30 and the ORV distribution is scheduled for early to mid-September. For TVR, raccoons are humanely live-trapped and, if healthy, vaccinated and released. If they are ill, the animals are euthanized and tested for rabies. For ORV, raccoons are attracted by the scent of the bait and are immunized when they eat one of the packets.
TVR will be conducted within a two-mile radius of where the first raccoon was captured in Old Brookville. ORV will occur over approximately 24-square-miles, primarily in the Town of Oyster Bay and part of the Town of North Hempstead. The area is bounded by the railroad tracks of the Oyster Bay line on the north, Route 106 on the east, Jericho Turnpike on the south and Glen Cove Road on the west (see map.) Veterinarians and wildlife biologists from the New York State Department of Health's Zoonoses Program will conduct the vaccinations.
With three raccoons infected with rabies, such procedures are necessary, as there is a good likelihood that other raccoons are also infected. With each generation of transmission, it will become more difficult to prevent the establishment of rabies on Long Island. Because of the threat to wildlife and domestic animals from terrestrial rabies, action needs to be taken quickly to maximize the chance of preventing rabies from becoming endemic here.
• Keep all dogs and cats indoors or on leashes during the oral bait distribution in September and for about a week afterwards. This will allow raccoons to eat the vaccine-laden baits and become immunized and will decrease the chance of pets eating the baits. The baits are not harmful to dogs or cats, but a pet may vomit if they eat a large number of them. The bait itself will not harm a child. In the unlikely event that a child bites through the packet and ingests the liquid vaccine, contact the Poison Control Center at 542+2323.
• Remember that it is not possible to get rabies from the vaccine. The vaccine does not contain the rabies virus.
• If a resident finds bait near their homes, but not in the open, they should leave it alone. The bait packets have a strong fishmeal smell that is not attractive to people or most other animals. There is a label ("Rabies Vaccine Live Vaccinia Vector. Do Not Disturb, Merial, Inc Us Vet lic no 298 1-877-722-6725") that clearly identifies the bait packet.
•If the bait is intact and out in the open where pets or children are more likely to encounter it, toss it into deeper cover under trees or bushes while wearing gloves. It is not harmful to touch an intact bait. However, because of the offensive odor, gloves are recommended. Wash hands thoroughly after any direct contact with the bait.
For more information regarding rabies and baiting, contact the Nassau County Department of Health at 571-2500; www.co.nassau.ny.us/health or the New York State Department of Health at 1-518-474-3186 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/zoonoses/rabies.htm.