Officials in Erie County are seeing higher-than-normal numbers when it comes to possible exposures to the rabies virus this year.
So far in 2016, the county has recorded 2,000 possible rabies incidents. That's up from 1,810 possible incidents at the same time last year.
"We've actually seen an increase in June and July especially of the number of cases of persons and animals involved with wildlife," said Peter Tripi with the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH). He is a senior public health sanitarian with the Rabies, Disease and Vector Control Program.
According to the ECDOH, 75 people were exposed to infected animals in June.
Niagara County also saw its first case of rabies in a domestic animal since 2010 this summer.
So the region's annual effort to combat the spread of the virus comes at a busy time for local officials. Beginning Monday, rabies vaccine baits will start being air dropped by planes across Erie and Niagara Counties. Wednesday, ECDOH workers will travel to different parks and areas to distribute the vaccine baits by hand.
Tripi says it's impossible to completely cut down on instances of rabies, but thinks efforts like this make a difference.
"At least if some raccoons run into this bait and eat it, they get inoculated for at least a year or two, or their lifespan," he said. "It prevents them from spreading it to another raccoon."
Erie County offers free rabies shots for dogs, cats and ferrets. Those start up in September. The information can be found below.
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