August 18, 2017Department Sees Sharp Increase in Post-Exposure Rabies Treatments -
OSWEGO COUNTY - Over the past few weeks there has been a sharp increase in the number of Oswego County residents who needed post-exposure rabies treatments because of possible exposure to bats. Bats are typically more active this time of year, and it's critically important that people try to capture any bats that may have come in contact with a person or pet.
Humans can develop rabies after undetected exposure to a rabid bat. If a bat is in the room of a sleeping person, an unattended child, someone mentally impaired, or an intoxicated individual, the bat should be captured and submitted to the county health department for rabies testing.
"All bat related incidents should be reported immediately to the county health department," said Jiancheng Huang, Oswego County Public Health Director. "It's very important that people try to capture the bat, and avoid damaging its head, whenever there is any question of potential exposure to a rabid bat."
To report a possible exposure, call the Oswego County Health Department weekdays at 315-349-3564. In an emergency during evenings, weekends, or holidays, call the health department's answering service at 315-341-0086.
The health department suggests people follow these steps when capturing a bat:
Wear leather gloves and when the bat lands, approach it slowly. Place a box or coffee can over the bat. Punch holes in a piece of cardboard to allow the bat to breathe, and slide it under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard to the container to secure it. If the bat is killed, using the same precautions to avoid contact with the bat, place the bat in a container or double-bag in plastic bags, and place it in a cooler with ice to preserve it. Contact the county health department at 315-349-3564 to arrange for rabies testing.
During the first two weeks of August, the department recommended rabies treatments for 21 people because they may have been exposed to rabies from a bat, and the bat wasn't available for testing. So far, this year, the health department has submitted 56 bats for testing to the NYS Wadsworth Center's Rabies Laboratory; two bats have tested positive for rabies.
"Our staff is available around the clock to respond to incidents that involve possible exposure to a rabid animal," said Huang. "If we determine that the animal needs to be tested, we will make arrangements to send it to the NYS Wadsworth Center's Rabies Laboratory."
Pet owners should keep their pet's rabies vaccinations current. Pets that have a current rabies vaccine only need to receive a booster shot if they're potentially exposed to the rabies virus; if the pet has not been vaccinated, it must be euthanized or quarantined for six months.
The county health department will hold rabies clinics Wednesday, Sept. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Palermo Town Highway Garage, 1572 County Rte. 45; and Wednesday, Nov. 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Oswego County Highway Garage, 31 Schaad Drive, Scriba.
For tips on managing bats in a home visit https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/bats/.
For more information call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3564. In an emergency during evenings, weekends, or holidays, call the health department's answering service at 315-341-0086.
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