This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

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

The annual process, which aims at vaccinating local raccoon populations against rabies and stifling public health risks associated with rabies, started this week in several Alabama counties, including Blount, Cherokee, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Jackson, Marshall, and Morgan counties.

Each ORV packet contains a plastic pack with the vaccine, while the outer shell is coated with fishmeal or dog meal to attract raccoons.

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.

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.

“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.

“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.