The Cape May County Department of Health will distribute more than 31,000 vaccine-laden baits throughout the mainland communities to combat a recent increase of animal rabies cases.
The baits, which look like small tablets, will predominantly be distributed by helicopter. The others will be distributed by hand in raccoon habitats like storm drains and other areas considered inaccessible from the air, according to the county.
If weather permits, the baits will be distributed starting the week of Sept. 24 and be completed within one to two weeks.
“The bait will have a warning label and include a Cape May County Department of Health telephone number for inquiries and for people to call if contact with the bait occurs,” county Health Officer Kevin Thomas said in a statement. “This vaccination program will help to reduce the number of animals with rabies such as raccoons (and) result in fewer encounters between rabid wildlife, pets and people.”
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Thomas said the baits are not dangerous to pets or wild animals. The exposure to humans is also small, he said.
However, residents should be aware of what the baits look like, tell children to leave them alone, keep pets on leashes at least five days after the area has been baited and wash their hands with soap and water if they touch the bait, Thomas said.
Rabies is a fatal disease that is shed in the saliva of animals infected with the virus. If someone is bitten by an animal, wash the wound, seek medical attention immediately and call the county Department of Health and your municipal animal control agency. If someone is exposed to a rabid or suspected rabid animal, they must receive rabies shots as soon as possible to prevent contracting the disease, according to the county.
If a pet has contact with a wild animal, contact a veterinarian and the Department of Health right away.
Anyone with questions about the county’s wild animal rabies vaccination program can call the Health Department at 609-465-1209.