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West Virginia
Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program

General Audience FAQ:

Oral Rabies Vaccine Baiting

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West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Information Regarding the Oral Rabies Vaccine Bait Drop

What is the oral rabies vaccine bait drop?

The West Virginia Oral Rabies Vaccination Project conducted a bait drop to vaccinate raccoons against rabies.  A bait drop is planned during the late summer and early fall of every year.  This program is just like any other immunization program. Just as children are vaccinated against measles or mumps, raccoons can be vaccinated against rabies.

Who is conducting the bait drop?

The bait drop is a cooperative effort between your local health department, the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Ohio Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health, and many other state and local organizations.

How is a raccoon vaccinated?

A raccoon is vaccinated by eating a bait containing the vaccine. Baits are dropped in areas where raccoons are likely to find them.

When will the baits be dropped?

The baits will be dropped in the late summer and early fall of each year.

Where will the baits be dropped?

The baits will be dropped along a wide corridor through the central part of the state, extending from the northern panhandle to the southern coalfields. The 34 involved counties included Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Brooke, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Hancock, Harrison, Kanawha, Lewis, Logan, Marion, Marshall, McDowell, Mingo, Monongalia, Nicholas, Ohio, Pleasants, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Taylor, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Webster, Wetzel, and Wyoming.

How can I help with the bait drop?

You can help by being aware of what the baits look like and encouraging children to leave them alone. Pet owners can help by keeping all dogs and cats inside or on a leash so the baits can be eaten by raccoons.

What is the ORV bait?

One type of bait is the square block made of fish meal and fish oil while another formulation is the coated sachet.   Raccoons like the smell and taste of the bait. The vaccine is inside a plastic packet in the middle of the block. 


Is the vaccine harmful?

The vaccine is not harmful to wild animals or pets. Although the exposure risk to humans is very slight, the following information is important:

  • Be aware of what the bait looks like.
  • Encourage children to leave the baits alone.
  • Keep dogs and cats inside or on leashes at least a week after your area was baited.
  • Do not attempt to take a bait away from your pet; you may be bitten.
  • If you touch the bait or the liquid vaccine inside the bait (a red fluid), thoroughly wash your hands or exposed skin with soap and water.

Are gloves required to handle the bait, or will I be harmed if I handle the intact bait without gloves?

It is not harmful to touch an intact bait; however, the bait does have a strong odor, so you might prefer to wear gloves when handling it. Wash your hands thoroughly after any direct contact with the bait.

What if I find a bait near my home?

Leave it alone, or if it is intact and out in the open, toss it into deeper cover.

What if my dog or cat eats a bait?

The bait is not harmful to pets or livestock. Do not try to take the bait from an animal.

What if my child eats or has contact with a bait?

The bait has a strong fish odor and is usually unappealing to children. It is not possible to get rabies from the vaccine. People with certain medical conditions, such as an immunodeficiency problem, may be prone to a local infection from vaccinia if the vaccine (red liquid) gets into an open wound. Using soap and water to wash any skin area exposed to the vaccine can prevent this. In the unlikely event that a child bites the bait or the actual vaccine packet, contact the West Virginia ORV Project at 1-800-423-1271.

If my child or pet eats the vaccine, will either of them get rabies?

No. It is not possible to get rabies from the vaccine. The vaccine does not contain the rabies virus, only a single gene from that virus.

Can this vaccine be used to vaccinate my dog or cat against rabies?

No. Vaccination of pets should be done by veterinarians in accordance with state and local laws. Pet vaccination is necessary to protect your pet against rabies.

State of West Virginia (WV)
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR)
Bureau for Public Health (BPH)
Office of Epidemiology and Health Promotion (OEHP)
Division of Surveillance and Disease Control (DSDC)
Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program (IDEP)

A-Z Listing of West Virginia's Reportable Diseases

This FAQ was last updated August 2007.           

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If you have questions or comments about the West Virginia Division of Surveillance and Disease Control, please direct them to Loretta Haddy at lorettahaddy@wvdhhr.org.  If you have questions or comments about this Web page, please direct them to Toby Wagoner at tobywagoner@wvdhhr.org.