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Erie County to airdrop rabies vaccine during next 2 weeks

This week Erie County plans to airdrop a rabies vaccine. Here's what you need to know about the packets you might find in your backyard.
Credit: Caribou Police Dept.
These are the small, one to two-inch oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits that will be scattered around northeastern Maine in August.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — During the next two weeks, you might see a plane or helicopter overhead, sprinkling little packets that ultimately are meant to help keep you safe.

These packets are a rabies vaccine, and it is important that you know what to do if you come across one. 

From Tuesday to Saturday, the Erie County Department of Health plans to distribute the rabies vaccine to the rural areas of the county.

Then next week, from August 16 to 23, the county will distribute the vaccine to open areas of the City of Buffalo and the suburbs. Both of these distributions will be done using aircrafts or helicopters. 

At the same time, from August 16 through 30, the vaccine packets will be distributed on-ground, by-hand throughout the city of Buffalo, Amherst and Cheektowaga. 

Overall, it is anticipated that more than 628,000 of these packets, which are also called baits, will be distributed throughout Western New York.

“This bait program is part of a national strategy to eliminate rabies and we are glad to support it here in Western New York,” Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “Raccoons, foxes and skunks consume this vaccine through bait and it can prevent them from developing this fatal disease and from transmitting it to other wild animals and to pets.”

It's important to know what to do if you, or especially your children or pets, find these packets or baits in your backyard.

The packets are small, a bit bigger than a quarter and usually a brownish color:

Credit: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Image of bait packet with quarter coin to indicate size; provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Here's what to keep in mind:

  • It's unlikely that the baits will last long in your yard: most are eaten within four days, and almost all are one within a week.
  • Do not touch or move the baits. If you have to, use gloves, or a plastic bag to pick it up and throw it into the woods. If it's damaged throw it out. 
  • Wash your hands right away if you end up touching one of the baits or the vaccine, and then you must call the New York State Department of Health Rabies Information Line at 1-888-574-6656.
  • While the vaccine drops are happening and for about a week after they end, watch your children outside. Also, keep your pets inside or on a leash to help prevent them from disturbing or ingesting the baits.
  • If you pet tries to eat one, don't try to remove it. It's not worth risking getting bit or being exposed to the bait. 
  • The baits and the vaccine are not harmful to domestic pets, but you don't want your pet eating several of them either. Eating multiple baits could cause them to vomit.

For more information on the rabies program, you can click here, or call the Erie County Department of Health, Enviromental Health at 716-961-6800 (Emergencies after regular business hours: 716-961-7898).