OTTAWA -- Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will be flying over parts of eastern Ontario in the latter half of August to help vaccinate wildlife against rabies.

The province controls rabies in wildlife by dropping baits that contain vaccine in urban, forested and rural agricultural areas. According to the MNRF, a yellow Twin Otter aircraft will be flying over areas along the St. Lawrence in Frontenac, Leeds & Grenville, and Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry counties in mid-to-late August to drop the vaccine packs.

"Baits are dropped for foxes, raccoons and skunks to eat in areas where rabies has been detected in wildlife in the current or previous year," a statement on the provincial government's website says.

The bait packets are a bit larger than a Canadian penny. They consist of a blister pack containing the vaccine that has been coated with a green-coloured bait and have "do not eat" warning labels for humans.

The MNRF says these vaccine baits are not meant for humans, livestock or pets and won’t protect you or your animals from rabies. Exposure to the bait is not harmful to people or pets but in the event that people or pets come in contact with the vaccine contained in the bait, contacting a doctor or veterinarian as a precaution is recommended.

Wild animals that eat the packets become immunized in about two weeks.

The MNRF says if you find a packet somewhere it shouldn't be, like in your yard, do not open it. Instead, place a plastic bag over your hand to pick it up, so that you don't get its scent on you, and then move it to a place where wild animals are likely to find it, such as a forested area.

Rabies symptoms

Rabies is a virus that spreads between mammals, including humans. It is found in the saliva and can spread via bites that break the skin or if infected saliva comes into contact with open wounds or the nose, mouth or eyes.

Animals infected with rabies may lose their fear of humans, become partially paralyzed or become overly aggressive. Animals that become infected with rabies typically die a few days after symptoms appear.

In humans, rabies can be fatal if it is untreated. Rabies can be treated with a vaccine if you seek treatment before symptoms of infection with the virus appear, typically within two to eight weeks of exposure. Once symptoms appear, it’s too late for treatment.

You will get five shots over 14 days and treatment is much less painful today than in the past.

Early symptoms of rabies may include:

  • numbness around the site of a bite
  • fever
  • headache
  • feeling sick

Later symptoms of rabies may include:

  • itchiness around the site of the bite (even after it’s healed)
  • muscle spasms
  • fear of air gusts (aerophobia)
  • fear of water (hydrophobia)
  • difficulty breathing

Once symptoms of rabies begin to appear, the disease is almost always fatal.

If you’re exposed to rabies

If you’re exposed to the saliva of a potentially rabid animal:

  • wash the bite or scratch with soap and warm water immediately (use hand sanitizer if there’s no soap or water nearby)
  • call your family doctor or go to the nearest hospital for treatment right away
  • report the bite or scratch to your local public health unit