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Health officials to distribute rabies vaccine baits

For little more than a week in September, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will distribute oral rabies vaccine baits via truck and helicopter in an effort to combat the spread of the deadly virus, officials said Monday.

Between Sept. 9 and Sept. 18, officials will distribute about 116,000 baits via vehicle and another 75,000 by helicopter through western Suffolk, weather permitting.

The one-inch-square fish-meal baits and oil-coated plastic sachet baits are being distributed in a mass effort to contain the spread of rabies.

Since 2006, officials said, 18 rabid raccoons have been confirmed, all on the Nassau-Suffolk border in the northwestern portion of Huntington. Since 2004, 67 raccoons have been confirmed to have been infected with rabies in Nassau, officials said.

The primary baiting area will be north of the Long Island Expressway to the Long Island Sound and from the county line east to Route 111, officials said.

"There is a high probability that other raccoons are also infected in this area," officials said in a prepared statement released Monday. "Rabies is fatal in unvaccinated animals and is a significant threat to the health of our wildlife, pet and human population."

Additional Suffolk locations to be hand-baited are: Brentwood, Bay Shore, Islip, Brightwaters, North Great River and Deer Park. All of Connetquot River State Park and Heckscher State Park will be baited by helicopter, officials said.

The Nassau County Health Department last week announced that the rabies vaccine would be distributed in raccoon habitats by trucks and by helicopter beginning Aug. 31.

The bait "is a small packet of liquid vaccine which is inside a brown fish meal cube," the department said in a news release.

The baiting area will cover the northern portion of Nassau.

"West of Herricks Road, the southern border for baiting is the Long Island Rail Road Main Line; east of Herricks Road the southern border for baiting is Old Country Road," the Aug. 17 release said.

Health officials said children should be supervised to avoid inadvertent contact with the baits.

They also said anyone making bare-hand contact with a bait should wash their hands "immediately" and then call to report the exposure.

Officials said the baits are not harmful to dogs or cats, however, it could cause them to vomit if ingested in "large numbers." Officials said that anyone with questions regarding the baits can call the county public health line at 631-78-2200 or the toll-free number at 800-222-1222.

Officials said you should immediately call your local hospital emergency room should a child bite through a bait packet and ingest the liquid inside.

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