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Posted on: January 9, 2018

Be Aware of Rabies

Be Aware of Rabies

Following a recent case of rabies in a kitten, the Wyoming County Health Department encourages everyone to take precautions against rabies exposure from wild and stray animals and to assure your pets are vaccinated against this potentially deadly disease.

Rabies is a disease that can spread from infected wild animals and pets to humans. Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pet dogs, cats and ferrets and avoiding contact with all wild and stray animals.  With the winter weather, it is tempting to care for stray cats, dogs and wild animals.  However, these animals are more likely to have rabies because of lack of vaccination and their exposure to other wild animals.  If you have been bitten by a cat, dog, or have had contact with a wild animal, please contact the Wyoming County Health Department at (585) 786-8894.

Rabies affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals, and is fatal in the vast majority of cases once disease occurs. With prompt treatment following exposure, however, rabies can be prevented.

Infected animals spread rabies virus through their saliva. People and unvaccinated animals can be infected from a rabid animal from a bite or if the saliva gets into the eyes, nose, mouth or a break in the skin.

Rabies is endemic in bats and raccoons in New York State. Other wild animals, especially skunks and gray and red fox, are more likely than family pets to be infected with rabies because of exposure to raccoons and the widespread vaccination of pet cats, dogs and ferrets.

In 2017, the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center tested 9228 wild and domestic animals for rabies. Of the animals tested, 607 were positive for rabies. To prevent rabies:

  • Avoid handling bats. If you find a bat in your house and can capture it safely, contact your local health department for assistance. They will tell you how to submit the bat for rabies testing and assess your need for preventive treatment.
  • Prevent bats, raccoons, and other wild animals from entering your home and other spaces where people and pets may be present.
  • Keep your pet cats, dogs, and ferrets up-to-date on their rabies vaccines. Consider vaccinating livestock and horses for rabies.
  • Do not leave your pets outside alone or let them roam free.
  • Do not leave food or water outdoors for your pets or for wild animals.
  • Keep garbage and recycling bins securely covered to avoid attracting wild or stray animals.
  • Never handle wild or stray animals, even if they are young, injured, or appear friendly.
  • Teach children never to approach or touch unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic.
  • Let wild animals and unknown pets wander away on their own if they are on your property or nearby. Bring children and pets indoors and alert neighbors who are outside.
  • If bitten by a wild or stray animal, wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water and contact your health care provider and local health department immediately. If the animal can be captured safely without further exposure, it can be tested for rabies. If the animal does not have rabies, you will not need preventive treatment.

 For more information on rabies prevention, visit the Wyoming County Health Department website at http://www.wyomingco.net/244/Rabies .

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