CANTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — Local counties will be contributing to the national effort to stop the spread of racoon rabies.

According to the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department, rabies is a serious public health concern which is fatal when left untreated. The detection, prevention and control of the disease costs over $500 million annually.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 90% of reported rabies cases in the United States are in wildlife. To combat this issue there will be field evaluations of the new oral rabies vaccine known as ONRAB. The ONRAB bait will target raccoon rabies specifically, which accounts for the most reported wildlife rabies cases.

In 2011, the National Rabies Management Program worked with other federal, state and local partners to conduct the first oral rabies vaccine in the U.S. in over 20 years which is now known as ONRAB. The field trial was designed to test the safety and immunogenicity of ONRAB, which has been successfully integrated into rabies control programs that resulted in elimination of raccoon rabies from Canada.

The vaccine will be distributed locally in Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and St. Lawrence County in addition to many other counties in New York State. The ONRAB baits will be locally distributed aerially and by hand from July 26 to August 24. These counties were selected as part of Canada’s ongoing fight against rabies in order to protect human and animal health as well as reduce the significant costs associated with living with rabies across broad geographic areas.

The ONRAB bait consists of a PVC blister pack that contains the vaccine, and is coated with a sweet attractant including vegetable-based fats, wax, icing sugar, vegetable oil, artificial marshmallow flavor, and dark-green food-grade dye.

Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the bait, however if they do have contact with an ONRAB bait they should immediately rinse the area with warm water and soap and contact their local health department.

The ONRAB bait will also be ongoing field evaluation in Clinton, Essex, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties as well as areas in northern Vermont and New Hampshire.