The Portage County Health Department, in conjunction with the Ohio Departments of Health and Natural Resources and in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, conducted its fall oral rabies raccoon vaccination operation in Aurora and Streetsboro on Aug. 20.

The operation was part of a national oral rabies vaccination program, which has been conducted in Ohio and other states since 1997.

Vaccinating raccoons along Ohio's eastern border has successfully slowed the spread of raccoon rabies variant into Ohio from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Portage County Health Department conducts this operation once each year.

Portage County Health Department Environmental Services employees manually distributed the vaccine.

It was distributed in two rabies vaccine formulations: Raboral V-RG in white plastic sachets and ONRAB contained in a blister pack covered in a waxy green coating. Both baits have a fishy smell.

Portage County Health Department Environmental Services employees make every effort to throw baits into deep brush and wooded areas. If baits are found in areas frequented by pets or children, toss them into a remote area that is frequented by raccoons.

Anyone handling baits should wear gloves or use a paper towel. If a person's skin is exposed to the vaccine, thoroughly wash hands with soap and water.

Through Sept. 5, vaccine also will be dropped from low-flying U.S. Department of Agriculture airplanes. The air-dropped vaccine is in a dark green, sweet-smelling, waxy-coated blister packet about 1 by 2 inches in size.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects animals and people, and is virtually 100 percent fatal. The rabies virus is found in the saliva of infected animals. Raccoons, skunks and bats are most often responsible for reported cases, but foxes and coyotes also commonly transmit the disease. It is spread by a bite or a scratch.

The best way to protect persons from rabies is to avoid contact with wild animals and animals that you don't know, and to vaccinate pets against rabies and keep them current with their shots.

If bitten, call a doctor. Call a veterinarian if a pet has contact with a wild animal. Rabies exposures in Portage County should be reported to the Portage County Health Department at 330-296-9919.

Questions about baiting and vaccine exposures may be directed to the ODH information hotline at 1-888-722-4371.