Animal rabies continues to be a serious public health problem in New York State. With the increased contact between wildlife and humans and their pets, the Cattaraugus County Health Department reminds all county residents that it is prepared to help anyone who may have been exposed to rabies, or who has questions about the disease.
The Cattaraugus County Health Department staff is available to respond to your questions. Inquiries and requests for information can be obtained by calling 716-373-8050, or 1-800-251-2584 between 9:00am to 5:00pm. For emergency calls after 5:00pm, you may call 716-373-8050.
County residents should be aware that significant numbers of household pets, particularly cats, have been diagnosed as rabid in recent years. Of the more than 20,000 New Yorkers who have been treated for exposure to rabies since 1990, many reported contact with a pet that had fought with a rabid animal. Pet owners need to know that if an unvaccinated pet, or one that’s overdue on its vaccination, comes in contact with a rabid or suspected rabid animal, the pet must either be destroyed or strictly quarantined for six months.
It is essential that pet owners make sure that their animals are immunized against rabies and that their vaccinations are kept up-to-date. The law requires that all dogs, cats and domesticated ferrets are vaccinated by no later than 4 months of age. Vaccinated animals that come in contact with wild animals can be given booster vaccinations, but these shots must be administered within five days of exposure.
Past Laboratory-Confirmed Cases of Rabies
- As of June 30, 2007, New York State laboratory-confirmed cases of rabies in Cattaraugus County include 3 raccoon, 1 red fox and 1 bat.
- In calendar year 2003, laboratory-confirmed cases of rabies in Cattaraugus County included 4 raccoon, and 1 skunk.
Bat Rabies continues to be of particular concern. In the past 10 years, two people have died in New York State from bat-associated rabies. In each case, family members recalled a bat in the home, but the possibility of exposure did not occur to them at the time of the incidents. In 1999, a record number of rabid bats in New York State, 118 cases, exceeded the previous record set in 1998. Although 96% of all bats tested by the State Health Department are negative for rabies, New Yorkers must remain aware of the risk for rabies from any contact with a bat. If you find a bat in your home, do not release or discard it; immediately contact the Cattaraugus County Health Department.
The Health Department urges all residents to take common sense steps to avoid exposure to rabies:
- If you are bitten, scratched, or had contact with an animal you believe to be rabid, immediately wash the wound, seek medical attention, and report the incident to the County Health Department.
- To avoid unnecessary rabies treatments, all potentially rabid animals, which persons may have been exposed to, should be confined and observed, or tested for rabies. Contact the Health Department for more information.
- Although a bite from a rabid animal is the primary venue for rabies transmission, contact the Health Department for information regarding other potential transmissions.
- Avoid contact with any wild animal. Be suspicious of wild animals that are unusually tame or aggressive, especially those that attack your pets. Do not attract raccoons to your yard by feeding them.
- Avoid contact with any stray animals, especially cats.
- Do not handle pets with bare hands for several hours after any involvement with a suspected rabid wild animal. Pet owners should keep a pair of thick gloves handy for just such situations, and should bathe pets after wildlife encounters whenever possible.
- Avoid contact with saliva of any animal that may be rabid.
- Seek advice regarding bat roosts in homes. Immediately report any possible contact with bats, including bats in rooms with sleeping persons, unattended children, or individuals with mental impairment.
As a reminder, the County Health Department has rabies clinics periodically.
There is NO cost for these clinics, but donations are appreciated.
Questions may be addressed to the Cattaraugus County Health Department at 373-8050, or at our free number, 1-800-251-2584.