How Allegheny County is Working to Eradicate Rabies in Raccoons

The five-week Raccoon Rabies Vaccination Baiting Program began Monday.


More than 300,000 rabies vaccination baits are being distributed throughout Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities over the next five weeks.

Rabies is a nearly always fatal viral infection transmitted through animal bites or scratches that affect the nervous system of mammals, including humans.

Any resident bitten, scratched or exposed to saliva from a stray or any other animal should immediately cleanse the contact area with soap and water, seek emergency medical treatment and report the incident to the Allegheny County Health Department by calling: 412-687-2243.

“Most of our reported rabies cases in animals in Allegheny County are from wild animals, a large portion from raccoons. Anything we can do to reduce the amount of rabies in our raccoon population is a benefit to the county’s overall public health,” said Dr. Barbara Nightingale, health department medical director, in a county press release

Crews with the health department and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services are spreading the blister packets containing a liquid vaccine that are coated in either fishmeal or a waxy, vanilla-flavored substance that attracts the wildlife. Most of the bait will be consumed within five days of distribution.

The baits will be distributed by hand through Aug. 4, and via aircraft — fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters — through Sept. 1. 

The health department is asking residents to spread the word about the initiative to avoid alarm over seeing low-flying, slow-moving aircraft passing over the same area multiple times, the release reads.

The baits are not harmful to pets. However, pet owners are asked to keep their animals inside or on a leash so they do not eat the bait before the raccoons can ingest it. Food sources should also be brought inside and garbage cans secured.

If anyone comes in contact with the bait, they should wash their hands and any other exposed area of skin with soap and water. If a rash develops, they should contact their health care provider immediately.

Raccoon rabies spreads rapidly and infects large numbers of raccoons. The disease often spreads to other wildlife and pets, making human exposure a real concern.

The number of rabid raccoons identified in Allegheny County has declined over the past 20 years, county information reads. 

Protecting Yourself, Your Family From Rabies
Here are six tips to protect against rabies:

  • Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats. Rabid animals do not always appear ill or vicious.
  • Teach children to leave wildlife alone. Be sure your children know to tell you if an animal bites or scratches them.
  • Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats or ferrets against rabies. Keep pet vaccinations up-to-date.
  • Tightly close garbage cans. Open trash attracts wild or stray animals to your home or yard.
  • Feed your pets indoors; never leave pet food outside as this attracts wildlife.
  • Call your doctor and your local health department for advice if an animal bites or claws you. Report the incident immediately.
Categories: The 412