2004-07-08 / Other News

Rabies Risk Increases In Summer

The Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) warns that there is an increased risk of getting rabies from animals during the summer when there is usually more contact between wild animals, pets and people. Rabies is a viral disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. The disease is transmitted from infected mammals to humans through a bite or scratch and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear.

In recent years, significant numbers of household pets, particularly cats, have been diagnosed as having rabies, according to the New York State Department of Health (NYS-DOH).

Animal rabies continues to be a serious public health problem in New York State. In the past decade, two people have died in New York State from rabies associated with bats. In each case, family members recalled seeing a bat in the home, but the possibility of exposure did not occur to them at the time of the incidents.

If you find a bat in your home or in a cabin, do not release or discard it, but immediately contact the county health department for advice about what to do with the bat.

To avoid the consequences of rabies infection, the following are recommendations, which were adapted from those of the NYS-DOH.

•If someone is bitten, scratched or has contact with an animal believed to be rabid, immediately wash the wound with soap and water, seek medical attention, and report the incident to the county health department.

• To avoid unnecessary rabies treatments, all potentially rabid animals that may have been exposed to someone should be confined and observed or tested for rabies. Contact the county health department for more information.

• Call the county health department regarding any contact with an animal that may be rabid. Although a bite from a rabid animal is the primary way for rabies to be transmitted, there are other ways.

• Avoid contact with all wild animals. 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 they have had any involvement with a suspected rabid wild animal. Keep a pair of thick gloves handy for just such situations. Whenever possible, bathe pets after wildlife encounters.

• Avoid contact with the saliva of any animal that may be rabid.

This information is provided by the Medical Society of the State of New York.

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