Rabies is a viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabies-infected animal. It is preventable through pre-exposure and/or post-exposure vaccines. Nationwide, wild animals are responsible for over 90% of all rabies cases with almost 38% attributed to raccoons followed by bats (24%) and skunks (21%). The raccoon strain of rabies spread quickly throughout the eastern US presumably after raccoons had been transported from Georgia to Virginia in the mid-1970s (click here for information on raccoon rabies spread).
A rabies-positive raccoon found in Chardon, OH in April 2004 triggered a sampling of road-killed raccoons. This led to other discoveries in Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga Counties the same year. USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services designated the Cuyahoga River as the westernmost line of raccoon-strain rabies spread, and multi-agency efforts have concentrated on stopping the spread of raccoon strain rabies west of this line. APHIS has since been conducting intensive raccoon-rabies surveys throughout Cleveland Metroparks reservations.
The Ohio Department of Health, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and Cleveland Metroparks distribute oral rabies vaccine packets (ORV) through a combination of aerial and ground ORV drops. Click here for information concerning the most recent ORV distribution in Cleveland Metroparks.
In 2007, USDA-APHIS based the Ohio operation out of the North Chagrin Reservation Operations Management Center. Raccoon sampling work extended from Lake County southward through Portage County. Early results showed a reduction of rabies attributed to the ORV distribution. If dogs and or cats ingest an ORV, they are in effect, receiving a free rabies booster with no ill effects. If a child ingests or handles an ORV, they will not be harmed, however it is suggested that their doctor is notified and the child's hands are washed. An information phone/contact number is printed on the side of the ORV, but many times, it is faded or weathered off.
Report any abnormal raccoon behavior to the nearest nature center or ranger station. Abnormal behavior might include, uncoordinated movements, matted fur, excessive salivation, or other sick appearance.
Check the Cuyahoga County Board of Health website for information on rabies prevention and to report an animal bite. For additional information on Ohio rabies and links to national efforts for rabies prevention click here.