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Oral Rabies Vaccination Campaign

Helicopter dropping oral rabies vaccine baits

The ONRAB vaccine is enclosed in a 1” x 2” blister pack filled with the vaccine and covered with a sweet-smelling, dark green, waxy coating.

In 1996, a new strain of rabies in wild raccoons was introduced into northeastern Ohio from Pennsylvania.  To protect Ohioans and their domestic animals, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and other state and local agencies partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services to implement a program to immunize wild raccoons for rabies using an oral rabies vaccine (ORV).

This effort created a barrier of immune animals that reduced animal cases and prevented the spread of raccoon rabies into the rest of Ohio.  The vaccine-laden baits are dropped by fixed wing aircraft in rural areas and by low-flying helicopters and ground vehicles in urban and suburban neighborhoods.

If you have found a bait or have questions, call the Ohio Department of Health Rabies Information Line at (888) 574-6656.

Although placement is targeted to raccoon habitat, it is inevitable that some baits may end up in a yard or be found by a pet or person.  Dogs, in particular, are attracted to them.  Please refer to the information below if you or your pet finds a bait.

Where does baiting occur?

The 2021 fall oral rabies vaccine bait operation took place Aug. 2-24, 2021 in 14 eastern Ohio counties (including Ashtabula, Carroll, Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning, Portage, Stark, Trumbull and Tuscarawas and parts of Belmont, Geauga, Harrison, Lake and Monroe).  Approximately 639,300 baits were distributed by ground and air, covering about 3,938 mi2 (10,200 km2) in Ohio.  For updates and access to near real-time data for the national baiting operation, please visit the USDA's dashboard.

Map: Oral rabies vaccination bait zone

One type of bait was used for the 2021 fall operation:

ONRAB bait

The ONRAB vaccine is enclosed in a 1" x 2" blister pack filled with the vaccine and covered with a sweet-smelling, dark green, waxy coat.

What if my pet eats the bait?

A few baits are not harmful, although eating a lot may cause vomiting or diarrhea.

  • Do not risk being bitten by taking the bait away from your pet.
  • Confine your pet for a couple of days and check the area for more baits.  Most baits are gone within four days.
  • Try to avoid your pet's saliva for 24 hours, and wash skin or wounds that may have been licked.

What if I find a rabies bait?

Baits should be left alone, but intact baits can be moved if they are found where children and pets play.  Damaged baits should be bagged and disposed in the trash.

  • Wear gloves or use a paper towel when picking up the bait.
  • Toss intact baits into a fence row, woodlot, ditch or other raccoon habitat area.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water after any skin contact with damaged baits.

Contact with intact baits is not harmful.  Persons who are immunocompromised or pregnant may be at risk of a reaction if the bait ruptures and vaccine gets into a mucous membrane or open wound.  If a person is exposed to the vaccine (liquid) within the bait, thoroughly wash any areas of the exposed skin with soap and warm water.