The Health Department, along with City agencies, federal and academic partners, is launching its annual effort to vaccinate raccoons against rabies in New York City.
So far 30 animals have been found to have rabies across NYC so far this year. Staten Island has the most (12 raccoons, 1 cat, and 1 bat), followed by the Bronx (8 raccoons, 1 skunk, and 1 cat), Queens (2 raccoons and 1 cat) and Manhattan (2 raccoons).
As for Brooklyn – there’s just the one raccoon that was found on July 15th near 15th Avenue and Cropsey Avenue near the Dyker Beach park. It is the first rabid animal reported in Brooklyn since bat from Shore Road near Oliver Street in 2015.
Last time there were rabid racoon sitings was in 2014, when Brooklyn logged 4 rabid raccoons and one opossum, and that coincides with the year that this vaccination program was started by Cornell University. Vaccines have been distributed every year in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, except for 2019, DOH infoms.
“Rabies is serious and can be deadly for both you and your pets,” said Health Commissioner Dave A. Chokshi in a statement. “This effort will help residents, their pets and wildlife stay safe. New Yorkers should vaccinate their pets and watch them when outdoors. Also, it’s a good idea to keep a safe distance from wildlife.”
For the next two weeks, (September 29 through October 9) wildlife biologists with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will distribute the baits containing the vaccine in areas with thick vegetation in Brooklyn and elsewhere in the city, and DOH will drop some from low flying helicopters around the Gateway National Recreation Area as well as Staten Island.
“We’ve lost some ground because of recent budgetary constraints; however, it’s wonderful to be on track again,” said Cornell University’s Program Coordinator Dr. Laura L. Bigler. “Vaccination of NY City’s wildlife also supports the national strategy to eliminate raccoon rabies with the cooperation of affected states.”
The vaccine is a pink liquid that comes in small, brown colored baits that are fish-scented and resemble a ketchup packet that raccoons find irresistable. “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 avoid being bitten and exposed to the vaccine,” DOH officials advise, adding that “the bait itself does not harm people, but in extremely rare instances, exposure to the liquid may cause a rash. In the unlikely event someone comes in contact with the liquid, they should wash hands with warm, soapy water, talk to their doctor, and notify the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.”