Monday, August 31, 2009

TWO Rabies Information Items

[Two Rabies Information Items] Appalachian Ridge Oral Rabies Vaccination (ORV) Program – September 2009 – At-a-Glance AND Appalachian Ridge Oral Rabies Vaccination (ORV) Program – September 2009 – At-a-Glance

(Note: Both articles are current as of August/September 2009.)

Appalachian Ridge Oral Rabies Vaccination (ORV) Program – September 2009 – At-a-Glance


Rabies is a viral disease that affects animals and people and is still virtually 100 percent fatal. Raccoon-rabies variant (RRV) is of particular public health concern, because it can infect domestic animals and people. Ohio's effort to keep RRV from spreading throughout Ohio began in 1997. A new vaccine that could be eaten by wild animals was used to create a barrier of immunized raccoons along Ohio's borders with Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This strategy was very successful, and in subsequent years many other states, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia, also began programs. This multi-state oral rabies vaccination (ORV) effort is coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS). Other cooperators involved in the Ohio effort include the Ohio departments of Health and Natural Resources (ODNR), The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dynamic Aviation and local health departments (LHDs).

Baiting Area

ORV baits will be distributed in 16 northeast Ohio counties including Ashtabula, Columbiana, Geauga, Jefferson, Lake, Mahoning and Trumbull, and parts of Belmont, Carroll, Cuyahoga, Harrison, Monroe, Noble, Portage, Summit and Washington. The immune barrier runs along Ohio's border with Pennsylvania and West Virginia; from Lake Erie south to the Ohio River. The western edge is Interstate 77 in Cuyahoga County.

Start Date

Baiting is slated to begin September 6. Aerial baiting in rural areas should take 10 days, weather permitting. Vehicle and ground distribution of ORV baits in urban and suburban neighborhoods is expected to take about 18 days, from September 8 through September 25, but may be extended depending on weather conditions. The base of operations is Youngstown-Elser Metro Airport in North Lima, Ohio.

Bait Distribution

Baits are delivered at a density of about 75 baits per km or about one bait per 3.3 acres. Most of the baits will be delivered by specially-equipped, white Beechcraft King Air planes. They will fly over rural areas along north-south flight lines that are about 0.5 miles apart at an altitude of about 500 feet. An ODNR helicopter will also be distributing baits in targeted urban and suburban areas such as parks and preserves. Ground teams, consisting of LHD personnel, will be delivering vaccine-laden baits in urban and suburban areas, mostly by vehicle. In all, about 877,680 vaccine-laden baits will be distributed via airplane, helicopter and vehicle, covering about 4,761.3 square miles in Ohio.

Program Partners

Ohio Departments of Health [ODH] and Natural Resources [ODNR]; USDA-APHIS [U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service]; Wildlife Services Program; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].

For more information, please visit the ODH or USDA-APHIS web sites at:


2008 Annual Summary: Ohio Raccoon-rabies and Oral Rabies Vaccination Program, 2008 - Ohio Oral Rabies Vaccination Program Update, 2008


Rabies is a viral disease that affects animals and people, and is almost always fatal. Since the mid-1970s, a rabies variant associated with raccoons has spread rapidly through the eastern United States and first threatened northeastern Ohio in 1997. This variant is of particular concern because it affects many other wild and domestic animals, especially cats. In 2003, Virginia reported the first human death due to raccoon-rabies variant (RRV). In newly infected areas, raccoon rabies results in a tenfold increase in human rabies exposures and treatments. For this reason, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) does not want this strain of rabies to become established in the state. In an effort to control the disease, ODH has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA APHIS WS) to conduct a program to distribute an oral rabies vaccine (ORV) to immunize wild raccoons along the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders. This vaccine is delivered by airplanes and helicopters in rural areas and by local health department (LHD) vehicle-based ground teams in urban areas at an average rate of one vaccine-laden bait per 3.3 acres. Treatments have been conducted once or twice per year to create a 25-mile-wide immune barrier from Lake Erie to Monroe County. In 2004, there was a breach of the Ohio immune barrier. A raccoon with RRV was confirmed in Lake County, about seven miles west of the established barrier. All of Lake and Geauga counties, plus parts of Cuyahoga, Summit and Portage counties were subsequently added to the ORV treatment zone.

Although ORV has successfully suppressed infection in raccoons in the treated area and has controlled the spread of RRV through the rest of the state, the virus continues to persist in northeast Ohio. Since 2004, more than 95 percent of the RRV animal cases (117 out of 123) have been found within the outbreak/breach area of Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake counties. In 2008, nine animals (five raccoons, three skunks and one coyote) were RRV positive, compared to 20 in 2007. Most positive animals were clustered in the western half of Lake County near Mentor; and in eastern Trumbull County near the Ohio/Pennsylvania state line (Figure 1).

Sixteen counties were involved in the three ORV operations in 2008. In May, vaccine-laden baits were distributed in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Portage and Summit counties. In September, this area was baited again, along with the ORV barrier area along the Ohio border (Figure 2). Additional baits were distributed in Monroe, Noble and Washington counties by USDA APHIS WS, in September, during an operation in Wayne National Forest. A total of 1,352,422 vaccine-laden ORV baits were distributed in Ohio in 2008 covering 10,010 square kilometers (3,865 square miles).

Although persistence of RRV in Lake County is a concern, the good news is there has not been a significant spread of the virus into areas outside this new breach/outbreak ORV zone.

Continued ORV treatments; plus aggressive surveillance will be required to keep the raccoon-rabies epizootic from spreading.

Through continued efforts, control of RRV will hopefully return to pre-breach/outbreak levels, when RRV decreased from 62 positive animals in 1997 to just two positive animals in 2003 (Table 1).

In addition to the ORV program, USDA APHIS WS conducted a large-scale Trap-Vaccinate-Release project between April and October 2008 in the western half of Lake County. Using a new systematic technique, the area was broken down into quads consisting of six one square kilometer (0.39 square miles) cells. The goal was to vaccinate 65 percent of the raccoon population residing within each cell. To accomplish this, raccoons were captured and each animal’s sex, relative age and overall health were determined. Healthy animals were vaccinated via injection, ear-tagged and released. All healthy non-target animals were released. Any animal that showed signs of odd behavior, sickness or had puncture wounds was tested for rabies. A total of 4,196 raccoons were vaccinated. Additionally, 138 raccoons and 77 skunks that showed signs of odd behavior, sickness or had puncture wounds were tested for rabies. One of the 77 skunk tested positive for RRV; while all 138 raccoons tested negative.

Zoonotic Disease Program, Bureau of Disease Investigation and Surveillance, Ohio Department of Health or 614-752-1029 or 888-722-4371