(WHNT) — The process of dropping oral rabies vaccines (ORV) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) across Alabama begins on Saturday.

The annual process aims at vaccinating local raccoon populations against rabies and stifling public health risks associated with rabies. Starting on Oct. 1, portions of several Alabama counties, including Blount, Cherokee, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Marshall, Morgan, St. Clair, Shelby, and Talladega counties have bait-drop zones.

Each ORV packet contains a plastic pack with the vaccine, while the outer shell is coated with fishmeal or dog meal to attract raccoons. When they bite into the packet it exposes their gums to the vaccine.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), ORV has no risk of rabies to humans or animals if exposed. Animal reactions could include digestive upset but are rarely serious.

The ORV packets distributed in Alabama contain a plastic pack with the vaccine and an outer shell of fishmeal or dog meal to attract raccoons.

In rural areas, airplanes will be used to distribute the packets while in urban areas, like the city of Birmingham, vaccines will be distributed by hand along tree lines from trucks.

“I understand the concern from citizens and owners when an ORV packet is found in an unintended place or when there is an unintended exposure, but I am hopeful that people keep the big picture in mind, and that is actually reducing the risk of rabies exposures in Alabama by vaccinating raccoons,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Dee W. Jones.

If a packet is found, it should be handled with gloves and either replaced in an area where raccoons could find it or thrown in the trash.

“The vaccine packets have been proven to be very safe by historical data collected from incidental exposures,” added Jones. “I believe the ORV program benefits public health, animal welfare and wildlife.”

For more information on ORV, contact the USDA at 1-866-4USDA-WS or contact ADPH with any animal or human exposures at 334-206-5969.