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Rabies vaccine bait drops begin this week

Niagara County Health Department

New Yorkers may see planes and helicopters overhead this week, dropping thousands of pellets across city and rural areas. It is the annual rabies vaccine air drop and there are some things to remember when you see the waxy green, vanilla-scented packets. Late Thursday, the Erie County Health Department recorded the 18th animal in the county to test positive for rabies in 2016.

"Five bats, one cat, three fox, seven raccoon and two skunk."

Senior Public Health Sanitarian Pete Tripi says the mild weather also has resulted in a higher-than-usual rat population - locally and across the border - as well as a raccoon outbreak in Ontario. To protect residents and their pets against the nearly always fatal disease, public health agencies will begin air-dropping rabies vaccine baits later this week.

"Check your yard, especially if you hear a helicopter or airplane fly by, just to make sure there's none laying around," says Tripi. "You know, keep children away from it."

Tripi says some 400,000 baits will be air-dropped across Erie County alone. If you have to touch the baits, he advises to use gloves or a shovel and throw them into a wooded area. He says a single bait is not harmful to a pet, but eating several may make a pet vomit.

Credit Erie County Health Department

"There are certainly numbers on the bait to contact if an animal or a human were to get involved with it," says Tripi. "The number for the state is 888-574-6656 and you certainly can always call us at the Erie County Health Department if you have questions. The number is 961-6800."

Erie County's distribution of the vaccine baits is a cooperative effort among the U.S. Department of Agriculture, New York State and Cornell University. More information can be found on the Erie County Health Department website at erie.gov/health.

The air-drops will take several days, then baits will be placed by hand in areas not accessible by air, such as Delaware Park, the week of August 21.