Thousands of Oral Rabies Vaccine (ORV) baits will be distributed by hand and by helicopter in green areas around Monongalia County on Friday, after fourteen raccoons tested positive for rabies in the area.

Staff members from the Monongalia County Health Department (MCHD), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will distribute 49,000 ORV baits in the more rural areas of Monongalia County.

“With the influx of rabid raccoons, we’re hoping to minimize the threat of rabid raccoons,” said Jon Welch, program manager of MCHD Environmental Health. “It’s the first time in four years we’ve hand-baited anything in Morgantown.”

Five of the rabid raccoons in Monongalia County were found after family pets interacted with them. The other nine that tested positive for rabies were identified on surveillance conducted by USDA and APHIS.

Areas included in the Morgantown hand baiting are green spaces around Green Bag Road, Richwood Avenue, South Park and the rail-trail from the water plant down to University Motors.

“It’s not going to be dropped right by the rail-trail,” Welch said. “It will be tossed into nearby culverts and ditches.”

The ORV baits are coated in dog food and fishmeal and are not dangerous to humans or animals. However, people who encounter the baits are encouraged to leave them alone.

Lee Smith, officer at MCHD, hopes this will help reduce the incidents of rabies that have been occurring in the area, but he said that the ORV must be dropped annually to make a real difference.

“This is why we advise people to leave wildlife alone, have their animals vaccinated, and do not handle without precautions pets that may have been injured in fights with other animals,” Smith said. “Also, if there is concern, seek attention by a medical provider knowledgeable of rabies and who is equipped to begin treatment if necessary.”