Pets should be kept indoors or on leashes until Oct. 22 as authorities distribute rabies vaccine packets for raccoons, the Nassau County SPCA said.

Three rabies cases occurred in Brooklyn last year, and to deter any eastward advance of the disease, the vaccine bait packets are being distributed this week in certain communities. They are Atlantic Beach, Cedarhurst, Hewlett, Inwood, Lawrence, Long Beach, Valley Stream, Woodmere and Woodsburgh, the Nassau County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said.

Pets should be kept indoors so they don't eat the bait packets, which are being spread in raccoon habitats, including woods, bushes, streambeds and sewers, the agency said.

The packets have labels that say "Rabies Vaccine Live Vaccinia Vector," and raccoons are drawn to the scent in the bait, eating it and becoming inoculated, authorities said.

The distribution is part of the Wildlife Rabies Vaccination Program for the metropolitan area and involves several agencies, including the Nassau County Department of Health, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Cornell University.

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Call the Poison Control Center at 212-764-7667 if a child eats the bait, if a pet has a bait in its mouth or if a person touches the bait, the SPCA said.

The vaccine bait is not lethal to dogs or cats, but a pet may vomit after ingesting a large number of packets, the SPCA said.

It is not possible to get rabies from the vaccine in the bait, the agency said, because the vaccine contains attenuated vaccinia virus, a weakened version of the virus used to inoculate humans against smallpox.

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Out of the animals tested for rabies in the first seven months of this year, none out of 141 tests in Nassau came back positive but three out of 123 cases showed rabies, all in bats, according to the most recent statistics from the state health department.

For more details on rabies and baiting, call the Nassau County Department of Health at 516-227-9663, go to www.nassaucountyny.gov/2048/Rabies or go to the state health department's website at www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies.