Raccoon rabies vaccination begins

Ohio officials want to prevent rabid animals by vaccinating raccoons with bait. / fatedsnowfox (Flickr)

It's that time of the year... Today, the state begins rabies baiting to protect Ohioans from rabid raccoons.

The Departments of Health and Natural Resources employees are dividing and conquering 14 counties in northeast and eastern Ohio armed with vaccine bait. The oral vaccine, about the size of a ketchup packet, is secured in fishmeal that attracts raccoons.

"This local, state and federal partnership is an example of our continued efforts to protect and improve the health of all Ohioans," ODH Director Ted Wymyslo told WTAM. "You can help us prevent the spread of the raccoon rabies variant by avoiding the baits and working with your veterinarian to vaccinate your pets."

Employees will toss most of the 762,000 rabies packets out of airplanes while planting larger bait in rural areas by hand.

Officials report three confirmed cases of rabies in animals this year and six in 2010. Rabies is spread by bites and is almost always fatal.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)