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Genesee County Health Department seeks renewal for rabies treatment services

By Joanne Beck

Have you ever seen those appeals from the health department looking for the owner of a dog that recently took a bite out of someone on the street?

That’s because those random bites of unidentified animals result in rabies treatments for the victims. Just how often does this happen, Genesee County Legislator John Deleo asked during a Human Services meeting Monday.

More than you might think. 

“You see a lot of press releases, particularly in April and May when the animals come out and people go out, and the weather gets better. On average, 25 to 30 people a year, with dog and cat bites,” Public Health Director Paul Pettit said while requesting a contract renewal for rabies treatment services between the county and United Memorial Medical Center. “Sometimes we're looking for a dog that maybe bit somebody, and we're trying to find the owner. That's been successful from time to time. And bat season is typically in August, where you get a lot of bats in the home at night while people are sleeping. Unfortunately, they let them go. And they just happen to test a lot of people.”

UMMC provides a post-exposure rabies vaccine to those bitten by animals suspected of having rabies or when it’s unknown whether they may have the disease. 

The agreement is expected to result in a budget impact of a reduction of expenses for the vaccine and an increase in insurance reimbursements, according to the county resolution. The Human Services Committee agreed, and it is to move on to Ways & Means and then to the Legislature for a final vote.

The committee also approved Pettit’s request for an agreement to pay $750 to The Harvester Center for winter storage of the health department’s RV and trailer; and $8,000 for public health advertising about the ill effects of lead at Dwyer Stadium and the David McCarthy ice arena in Batavia. The advertising expenses are covered by a grant, Pettit said. 

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