Aims To Protect Raccoons & Humans
Raccoons roaming through southern Queens and Brooklyn will soon be vaccinated for rabies, the city Health Department announced last Wednesday, Sept. 10.
Members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cornell University will set up bait stations around the area containing an oral rabies vaccine. The program, currently ongoing in Nassau and Suffolk counties and upstate communities, aims to guard against the spread of the potentially fatal virus.
The exact locations where the vaccine stations will be set up has yet to be determined, a Health Department spokesperson informed the Times Newsweekly last Friday, Sept. 12.
Wild creatures such as raccoons, bats and skunks are known to be especially susceptible to rabies, a virus that attacks the central nervous system. It can be spread by infected animals to humans or other animals through scratches, bites and contact with infected saliva.
Raccoons are a common sight in Queens, as the nocturnal creatures often invade backyards and tip over trash cans in search of food. While no Queens raccoons have tested positive for rabies this year, 10 infected critters were reportedly located in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
The bait stations will feature a brown food containing a small packet with a dose of pinkcolored liquid vaccine. The bait is fish-scented in order to attract raccoons to eat it.
While the vaccine will not harm people, in rare instances, exposure to the liquid could cause a rash. The Health Department advises residents who touch or accidentally ingest the vaccine to call a physician and the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222- 2222.
Dogs, cats and other pets are not at risk of serious illness if they ingest the vaccine, although the Health Department advised it may induce vomiting. Should a pet take the bait from a station, it was noted, residents should not try to take it away from them, as the animal may bite and release the vaccine.
Domesticated pets should be vaccinated for rabies; generally, booster shots are required every one to three years.
While humans are advised to stay clear of contact with wild, stray or unfamiliar animals, they should watch out for the possible signs of a rabies-infected animal. Symptoms include normally tame animals, such as cats, acting aggressively or wild animals appearing docile.
Other signs of infection include animals having difficulty moving around, or nocturnal animals such as raccoons observed during the daytime.
Call 311 or Animal Care and Control at 1-212-788-4000 to report a potentially infected animal.
Anyone who is bitten or scratched by an animal should first wash the wound, then contact their doctor or visit a local emergency room and call either 311 or the Poison Control Center. Depending on the doctor’s examination, the patient may require a tetanus shot and/or a series of rabies vaccines.
Reportedly, no human has contacted rabies in 50 years.