Rabies vaccine cubes left out for raccoons

Health Department spreading pellets on Broadneck Peninsula

August 12, 2005|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

If you come across a brown cube on the ground -- it'll be about the size of an engagement ring box -- leave it be. It is probably a vaccine for the county's raccoons.

The Anne Arundel County Health Department distributed more than 81,000 vaccination-laced pellets throughout the Broadneck Peninsula this week. Each cube smells of fish and has the Health Department's phone number stamped on the side.

"Rabies is a public health threat," said Elin Jones, a Health Department spokeswoman. "It is a fatal viral infection. People exposed to rabies have to undergo an expensive and painful series of shots to protect themselves."

Raccoons are the most common carriers of rabies in the county, Jones said.

In 1997 -- the year before the county started distributing the pellets -- there were 97 cases of animal rabies, 79 involving raccoons.

Last year, there were 23 cases of animal rabies in the county, 17 of which involved raccoons.

The Raccoon Rabies Vaccination Project costs about $144,000, Jones said. Throughout the year, veterinarians with the Health Department trap a random sampling of raccoons and test to see if they have been vaccinated. The results have been positive, Jones said.

The pellets were distributed via helicopter Monday and by volunteers on foot.

The Health Department has not had any cases of pets being harmed by eating a cube, Jones said. But, if a child eats one, a physician should be contacted immediately, she said.

Pellets will be distributed to the remaining parts of the county Sept. 12-30.

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