The NYC Parks Department and Health Department began vaccinating raccoons against rabies in New York City placed bait that contain an oral rabies vaccine (ORV) in Manhattan’s Inwood Hill and Fort Tryon Parks as part of an ongoing effort to eliminate the virus from Manhattan. Additional vaccination efforts are planned for other boroughs in the months ahead.
The small, brown colored ORV baits are fish-scented and resemble a ketchup packet which conceals a small amount of pink, liquid vaccine. Raccoons are attracted to the odor and when they chew the bait, they can become immunized, which protects them against rabies infection.
New York City has been vaccinating raccoons against rabies since 2014 in order to help keep them healthy. Raccoons can contract rabies and spread the virus to other mammals or to humans. Thirteen rabid animals have been found across the five boroughs to date in 2021.
“Rabies can be deadly for people and pets,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “New Yorkers should ensure their pets are up to date on vaccinations and avoid interactions with wild mammals.”
Richard Simon, Wildlife Unit Director for NYC Parks, said that raccoons are a natural part of our city, and although it’s very rare to come into contact with a rabid raccoon, “we want to remind all New Yorkers that if you see a raccoon, you should give them space – never approach or try to feed them.”
The bait is not harmful to humans, although it may cause a rash if it comes in contact with the skin, in which case the person should wash his hands with warm, soapy water, speak with their doctor or call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, and if a person or animal does not receive appropriate medical care after exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain which ultimately results in death.