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Erie County

A helicopter will be used this week to drop rabies vaccine bait in rural areas of the county.

The vaccination effort, a collaboration between local, state and federal agencies and Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center, began last week and continues through Saturday. Fixed-wing aircraft were used for the first few days; staff from the Erie County Health Department’s Rabies, Disease and Vector Control Program also are distributing baits via vehicles and on foot.

“This distribution of vaccine-laden baits by airplane and helicopter ... is part of an aggressive action to halt the spread of rabies in wildlife, particularly raccoons,” said Peter Tripi, a senior public health sanitarian for the county.

So far this year, 16 animals from Erie County – primarily bats and raccoons – have tested positive for rabies.

Residents who come across a bait shouldn’t disturb it; if they touch it, they should wash their hands immediately. If not found and eaten, the baits will dissolve and expose the vaccine, which will become inactive through exposure to sunlight and air.

The baits and vaccines aren’t harmful to domestic animals, but an animal may vomit if it consumes several baits.

More information is available from the state Health Department’s Rabies Information Line at 1-888-574-6656.