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June 13, 2018 - 2:08pm

Local health officials remind people about the danger of rabies and how to protect yourself

posted by Billie Owens in rabies, Genesee County Health Department.

Press release from the GC Health Department:

Springtime is a perfect time to remind everyone about how dangerous rabies can be and what you can do to prevent exposure to you, your family and your pets.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that can be fatal once symptoms (signs) show up. Rabies is a central nervous system disease, which attacks the brain and causes death. Rabies can be spread through bites, scratches, and saliva.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that each year, the majority of rabies cases occur in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Though those are the most commonly reported animals with rabies, all mammals; including humans can be infected.

Therefore, it is recommended that pet owners and livestock owners get their animals vaccinated for rabies. In New York State, cats are the most often diagnosed domestic animals.

Sarah Balduf, Environmental Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, reported that so far in 2018 there have been a total of 19 animals submitted for rabies testing between the two counties and three have tested positive for the fatal disease, complete details below.

In addition to these animals, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has submitted one deer from Genesee County, which tested negative.

Genesee County -- Animals Tested for Rabies as of June 12:

Total Tested / Total Positive

  • Bat: 2 tested / 1 tested position 
  • Cat: 3 tested / 1 tested positive
  • Dog: 3 tested / 0 tested positive
  • Horse: 1 tested / 0 tested positive
  • Raccoon: 1 tested / 1 tested positive

One of the first signs of rabies in animals includes a change in the animal’s behavior.

Balduf said “Animals may become unusually aggressive, or may develop an unwarranted sense of fear or it may lose its fear of another animal. In wild animals, symptoms are as follows; affectionate or friendly, or it may attack anything in its path, due to excitable or irritable behavior. Other symptoms include staggering, convulsions, choking, foaming at the mouth and paralysis.”

Though rabies may take up to three months to fully develop, there are some early signs to look out for in humans.

These signs include fever, headache, sore throat, and unexplained tiredness. If an animal bite or scratch is not reported right after it happens, the disease can develop. The signs after development include, pain and tingling at the bite site, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), strong tightening of the muscles in the throat and paralysis starting at the infection site.

To protect yourself from rabies, people are encouraged to avoid feeding touching or adopting wild animals and stray domestic animals such as dogs and cats.

People are also encouraged to keep their pets (dogs, cats and ferrets), and livestock animals up-to-date on their rabies vaccination. Keeping a close eye on children who are playing outdoors and telling them the dangers of playing with wild or stray animals (alive or dead) is also highly recommended.

It is very important to make sure you are not attracting wildlife to your home. You can do this by making sure that your garbage cans are not accessible by wild life and you don’t leave pet food out unattended.

Anyone who has been bitten by any animal or who otherwise may have been exposed to rabies, needs to "Capture and Call." If you can do so safely, being careful to not damage the head/brain, capture the animal and call your local health department or a doctor to report the incident. Capturing the animal is vital in order for it to be tested for rabies.

Testing will confirm if the animal is infected with the virus or not, ensuring that only those who need treatment get it. In addition, make sure you clean any wounds immediately with soap and water.

(*If a bat is found in a room where there are unattended children, someone sleeping or someone who cannot speak for him/herself or your family pet, do not let the bat out of the house. To learn how to capture a bat safely, view a short video at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/ communicable/zoonoses/rabies/.)

A doctor or health department will determine if they need to be vaccinated with rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (RPEP). A person who is exposed and has never been vaccinated against rabies should get four doses of rabies vaccine — one dose right away, and additional doses on the third, seventh and 14th days.

People who have weakened immune systems may require a fifth dose of vaccine, as determined by their doctor.

The dosage and cost for an individual to be treated with RPEP depends on the individual’s weight. The cost to treat an individual for rabies is estimated to be about $3,750. Local health departments will work with the patient’s insurance company but what cannot be covered by insurance is paid out by the county, and ultimately you, the taxpayer.

Another reason it is important to love your own animals and leave the rest alone. So far in 2018, 20 individuals have been treated for RPEP in Genesee County and four people have been treated for RPEP in Orleans County. These numbers could be lower if animals were safely captured and submitted for testing.

To protect your pets from rabies, please visit our upcoming anti-rabies clinic in Genesee County:

  • Genesee County: 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 16: Genesee County Fair Grounds, 5031 E. Main Street Road, Batavia.

For information about Health Department services contact the Genesee County Health Department at 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website at www.co.genesee.ny.us/departments/health/index.html 

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