July 14, 2004
Bat Rabies Is a Health Threat for Pets and Humans
Animal rabies continues to be a serious public health problem in New York State. Now that summer has arrived, there is increased contact between wildlife and people and their pets. The Oswego County Health Department reminds all Oswego County residents that it is prepared to help anyone who may have been exposed to rabies or who has questions about the disease.
"The staff of the Oswego County Health Department are available around the clock to respond to rabies questions," said Health Commissioner Kathleen Smith.
Routine inquiries and requests for information can be obtained by calling 349-3564 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3564, during business hours. Evenings, weekends or holidays, residents with urgent inquiries can call the health department's on-call service at 341-0086.
Oswego 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 30,000 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 New York State law requires all dogs, cats and domesticated ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies," said Smith. "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. Vaccinated animals that come in contact with wild animals can be given booster vaccinations, but these shots must be given within five days of exposure.
For the convenience of local pet owners, the Oswego County Health Department will hold a rabies vaccination clinic Wednesday, July 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Oswego County Highway Garage, Route 104, Scriba. There is no charge for the vaccination. Donations will be accepted.
Commissioner Smith said that bat rabies continues to be of particular concern in New York State and Oswego County. In the past decade, 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. Since 1990, 28 of 31 human rabies deaths among people who acquired the disease in the United States were as a result of bat rabies.
"While approximately 97percent of all bats tested by the State Health Department are negative for rabies, people should remain aware of the risk for rabies from any contact with a bat," said Smith.
If you find a bat in your home, do not release or discard it, but immediately contact the county health department. The health department urges all residents to take these common sense steps to avoid exposure to rabies:
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