New York City just launched a new mass vaccination program, and this time it has nothing to do with humans. The city launches a vaccination program for its raccoons against rabies, and even uses helicopter drops.
On Monday, Sept. 12, the Department of Health, NYC Parks, and federal and university partners officially kicked off the effort, which involves scattering oral vaccines (hidden in brown-colored bait) in wooded areas of Manhattan, Queens. and Brooklyn. Instead, Staten Island raccoons will receive their vaccine doses by helicopter, which will drop vaccine bait next month over forested and swampy areas of the borough. The program will last until October and aims to vaccinate as many raccoons as possible.
Attracting animals is quite simple. Apparently the bait smells like fish, and when the raccoons bite it, it releases a pink liquid that acts like an oral vaccine. The vaccine itself is not harmful to humans, but if a person comes into contact with it, it can cause a rash. If this happens, residents are encouraged to wash their hands with warm, soapy water and talk to their doctor, and they should also notify the NYC Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Baits are also not harmful to other animals and pets, but they can cause vomiting if ingested.
The new rabies vaccination program is part of the City’s efforts to create a safer and healthier environment where humans and animals can coexist peacefully. “Rabies is a serious disease that can affect humans and our pets,” Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in an official statement. “New Yorkers should make sure their pets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations and stay away from wildlife. If you see an animal that you think is acting strange, please call 311.”
Rabies affects the central nervous system and, although it is a fatal viral disease, it is preventable. In New York City, it is found primarily in raccoons, and for this reason, it is crucial that residents and their pets refrain from approaching or touching the animals. As an extra precaution, pets can also be vaccinated against the virus.
“While coming into contact with a rabid raccoon is very rare, raccoons are residents of our city, and New Yorkers should be made aware of them,” said Sarah Aucoin, education officer. and wildlife for NYC Parks, in an official statement. “If you see a raccoon, give it space and never approach it or try to feed it.”
For more information on rabies and what to do in an emergency, you can visit The NYC Information Page on the subject.