For the fourth year now, wildlife biologists with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Cornell University are distributing oral rabies vaccine across Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
A low-flying USDA helicopter has been dropping small packets of bait targeting woods, bushes, stream beds, sewers and other areas since last Thursday, and will continue through tomorrow, September 12 (see green areas on the map). They promise that they will not intentionally drop bait in dense residential areas or on roadways, parking lots, or open fields.
The red areas will receive bait stations from September through October.
It all started when a raccoon attacked a litter of feral cats 16th Avenue in Bensonhurst back in 2014. The raccoon tested positive for rabies.
In New York City and New York State, rabies occurs primarily in raccoons, bats and skunks (and just maybe squirrels?), though no rabid animals had been found anywhere in Brooklyn this year, according to the Department of Health. NYTimes reports that “since 1992, when the city started tracking rabies, officials have never identified a squirrel with the disease.”
The baits consist of a small amount of pink, liquid vaccine in a brown, fish-scented packet, like the ketchup ones at fast food restaurants. Once raccoons chew the bait, they become immunized and cannot be infected with rabies, DOH said.
The bait is harmless to people, but may cause a rash if exposed to skin. If you find a bait – leave its best to leave it. Should you get exposed to the bait – wash your hands with warm, soapy water, talk to your doctor, and notify the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
The bait is not harmful to pets and cannot cause rabies, but it can cause vomiting if several baits are consumed. If pets find the bait, do not try to take it away from them.
To help prevent the spread of rabies, New Yorkers are reminded to take the following steps. Courtesy of the Department of Health:
- Get your cat or dog vaccinated for rabies. It’s the law.
- Check with your vet to see if your pet is up-to-date with vaccinations. Pets need a rabies booster shot every one to four years.
- Call 311 or visit nyc.gov and search for “rabies” for information on rabies.
- Always keep cats, even vaccinated cats, indoors and supervise your dog when it is outdoors. Cats and dogs that roam could come into contact with a rabid animal, get infected, and then expose you.
- Avoid wild, stray or unfamiliar animals. Keep children and pets away from them, too.
- Avoid any wild, stray, sick, or injured animal, no matter how helpless it looks. Even stray cats can be dangerous.
- Raccoons, skunks, and bats are more likely than other animals to have rabies. Be careful around them—especially if they appear sick or behave strangely. For example:
- Normally tame animals, like cats, acting too aggressive or wild animals acting too friendly.
- Difficulty walking around.
- However, if raccoons are seen out during the day, they should not be assumed to carry rabies.
- Call 311 to report an ill or injured animal
- Keep garbage in tight containers to avoid attracting animals.
- If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound, consult a doctor, and call 311 or Poison Control to report the bite.
- First, wash the wound with soap and lots of water IMMEDIATELY.
- Talk to a doctor right away to see if you need a tetanus shot or a rabies evaluation. If you don’t have a regular doctor, go to a hospital emergency room.
- Call 311 to report the bite. After business hours, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.