ALABAMA (WHNT) — If you see packets covered in fishmeal in your backyard, don’t panic; they are likely there to help fight rabies.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) said the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is once again distributing oral rabies vaccine (ORV) this month. ADHP said residents in several northeast and north-central counties of the state should expect to see rabies vaccine packets show up in yards and wooded areas beginning this week.

The effort is scheduled from October 3-10 for urban and suburban communities such as Albertville, Arab, Flemington Heights in Huntsville and Fort Payne

Immediately following that from October 10-21, the focus of the distribution will shift to the rural areas such as Jackson, DeKalb, Madison and Morgan counties.

This current action is a continuation of a program that normally includes 16 states, with the intent to reduce raccoon rabies and the associated public health risks from rabies exposures.

According to ADPH, in urban areas, vaccine packets are distributed by hand from trucks alongside the tree lines in wooded areas. Helicopters are also used to drop baits in more heavily wooded areas that are more difficult to access. The health department said in rural areas, airplanes will be used. Altogether, ADPH warned that residents may see low-flying aircraft or helicopters in the vaccination area.

The department said animal exposures are common, but ORV poses no risk of rabies to humans or animals if exposed. Occasionally, skin reactions occur in humans, and it is best to avoid direct contact with the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes with the vaccine.

ADPH said if exposure occurs, it is recommended to wash hands with warm water and soap. If a packet is found handle it with gloves and place it in an area where a raccoon may find it or dispose of it in the trash.

For more information about federal ORV usage in Alabama, please contact the USDA at 1-866-4USDA-WS. For more information about rabies exposures or animal and human exposures to the ORV, please call ADPH at (334) 206-5969.