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The Erie County Health Department Tuesday kicked off an effort to distribute the rabies vaccine to wildlife in rural areas throughout the county, including the use of airdrops.

The vaccine-laden bait will be distributed by airplane and helicopter throughout the region as part of an aggressive action to halt the spread of rabies amongst the local wildlife population, particularly racoons.

“Rabies remains a very serious disease, as it is nearly always fatal once symptoms are evident,” said Peter Tripi, senior public health sanitarian with the county health department.

Erie County is coordinating the effort with the Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant and Health Services agency.

In addition, the county’s division of environmental health will have staff from its Rabies, Disease and Vector Control program distribute some of the bait using road vehicles and by foot. If the weather cooperates, the baiting program is expected to conclude by Saturday.