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Oral Rabies Vaccination

In 1997, a new strain of rabies in wild raccoons was introduced into northeastern Ohio from Pennsylvania.  To protect Ohioans and their domestic animals, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and other state and local agencies partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services to implement a program to immunize wild raccoons for rabies using an oral rabies vaccine (ORV).

This effort created a barrier of immune animals that reduced animal cases and prevented the spread of raccoon rabies into the rest of Ohio.  The vaccine-laden baits are dropped by fixed wing aircraft or a low-flying helicopter in rural areas or distributed by hand and from vehicles in urban neighborhoods.

The 2018 ORV bait operation will take place Aug. 19-26, 2018 and will include 13 northeast Ohio counties: Ashtabula, Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Geauga, Harrison, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe, Portage, Stark, Trumbull and Tuscarawas counties (see map).  More than 1 million vaccine-laden baits will be distributed via airplane, helicopter and vehicle.

Two types of vaccine will be used for the baiting operation:

  • The ONRAB vaccine has proven to be effective in ORV campaigns to eliminate raccoon rabies in Canada.  The baits consist of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) blister pack that contains the ONRAB rabies vaccine.  To make the baits attractive, the blister packs are coated with a sweet attractant that includes vegetable-based fats, wax, icing sugar, vegetable oil, artificial marshmallow flavor and dark-green food-grade dye.
  • The Raboral V-RG vaccine consists of a sachet, or plastic pocket, containing the vaccine.  To make the baits attractive, the packets are sprinkled with a fishmeal coating or encased inside hard fishmeal-polymer blocks the size of a matchbox.

The ONRAB and coated sachet vaccines will be distributed by fixed wing aircraft in rural areas and by helicopters in urban and suburban areas.  The vaccine encased in fishmeal blocks will be hand-baited by vehicle. 

Although placement is targeted to raccoon habitat, it is inevitable that some baits may end up in a yard or be found by a pet or person.  Dogs, in particular, are attracted to them.  Please see the information below if you or your pet find baits.

What if my pet eats the bait?

A few baits are not harmful, although eating a lot may cause vomiting or diarrhea.

  • Do not risk being bitten by taking bait away from your pet.
  • Confine your pet for a couple of days, and check the area for more baits.  Most baits are gone within four days.
  • Avoid your pet's saliva for 24 hours, and wash skin or wounds that may have been licked.

What if I find a rabies bait?

Baits should be left alone, but intact baits can be moved if they are found where children and pets play.  Damaged baits should be bagged and disposed in the trash.

  • Wear gloves or use a paper towel when picking up the bait.
  • Toss intact baits into a fence row, woodlot, ditch or other raccoon habitat area.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water after any skin contact with damaged bait.

Contact with intact baits is not harmful.  Persons who are immunocompromised or pregnant may be at risk of a reaction if vaccine gets into a mucous membrane or open wound.

If you have found a bait or have questions, call the Ohio Department of Health Rabies Information Line at (614) 752-1029 or your local health department.

Coated Sachet Bait  Fishmeal Polymer Bait  ONRAB Bait

Oral rabies vaccination resources:


Page Updated:  08/16/2018

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