The New York City Health Department announced that it started vaccinating raccoons against rabies in three separate boroughs, including Brooklyn, on Oct. 30.
As part of the initiative, wildlife biologists with the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) will be deployed in wooded areas across Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan to distribute baits containing an oral rabies vaccine for visiting raccoons.
The baits were created with the goal of preventing the spread of raccoon rabies in the western United States, along with eventually eliminating the raccoon rabies variant entirely.
Rabies is a deadly but preventable viral disease that, in New York City, is most commonly found in raccoons. It can be spread to people and pets if they are bitten by a rabid animal that is infected with the sickness.
So far, in 2023 alone, 12 animals in New York City — four raccoons from Queens, one cat and four raccoons from Staten Island, one bat from Manhattan, one skunk from Brooklyn, and a skunk from the Bronx — have tested positive for rabies, according to the Health Department.
The Health Department says that rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pets; staying away from wild animals; as well as seeking medical care after potential exposures, before symptoms begin to show up.
“Rabies threatens raccoons, which can pose a risk to other wild mammals, humans, and pets,” said NYC Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan. “For everyone’s safety, New Yorkers should make sure their pets are up to date on rabies vaccinations. As a precaution, maintain distance from wildlife and if you see an animal you believe to be acting strangely, please call 311.”
The NYC Health Department describes the anti-rabies baits as small, brown-colored ketchup packets that are filled with small amounts of the pink, liquid vaccine. They also give off a fish odor, which is reportedly an attractive scent to raccoons.
While the baits are not harmful to humans, the Health Department says that contact with the liquid vaccine can cause a rash to occur. The city advises dog owners to keep their pets leashed when outside.
Residents who find themselves exposed to the liquid are advised to wash the contact area with warm, soapy water; talk to their doctor; and notify the NYC Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
The baits will be distributed until sometime in early November.
For more information regarding raccoons and rabies in NYC, visit the Health Department website.