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After 2 Rabies Incidents, County Health Officials Offer 10 Tips

Protect Yourself, Family, Pets From Rabies

After two recent incidents, the Rockland County Department of Health is offering residents warnings and tips about rabies. 

A coyote in Orangeburg has tested positive for rabies, after biting a County resident. In a separate incident, an Orangeburg resident was bitten by a raccoon in their basement, and the raccoon then escaped and cannot be tested. 

Both residents are undergoing vaccinations to prevent rabies.

People usually get exposed to the rabies virus when an infected animal bites them. Exposure may also occur if saliva from a rabid animal enters an open cut or mucous membrane (eyes, nose or mouth). If you are exposed to rabies, wash all wounds thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical 
attention immediately. Report all animal bites, even if they seem minor, to the Health Department at (845) 364-2585 (between 9 am - 5 pm, Monday to Friday). After 5 pm or on holidays or weekends call (845) 364-8600. Try to keep track of the animal that exposed you and report this information to the Health Department so the animal can be captured safely, if possible.

Depending on the species, it can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment. This includes bats with skin contact or found in a room with a sleeping person, unattended child, or someone with mental impairment. 

Bats have small, sharp teeth and in certain circumstances people can be bitten and not know it.

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Infected mammals can spread rabies virus to humans and other mammals. Exposure to a rabid animal does not always result in rabies. If treatment is started right away following a rabies exposure, rabies can be prevented. Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear.

It is most often seen among wild animals such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes, but any mammal can be infected with rabies. Reptiles (such as lizards and snakes), amphibians (like frogs), birds, fish and insects do not get or carry rabies.

The first sign of rabies is usually a change in an animal's behavior. It may become unusually aggressive or tame. The animal may lose its fear of people and natural enemies. A wild animal may appear affectionate and friendly. It may become excited or irritable and attack anything in its path. Staggering, convulsions, choking, frothing at the mouth and paralysis are sometimes seen. Many animals will make very unusual sounds. Infected animals usually die within one week after showing signs of rabies.

“Rabies continues to be a serious public health problem in Rockland County. We urge all residents to follow these safety tips to protect themselves, their family, and their pets against rabies,” said Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, Rockland County Commissioner of Health.


• Don't feed, touch or adopt wild animals, stray dogs or cats.
• Keep family pets indoors at night. Don't leave them outside unattended or let them roam free.
• Don't try to separate two fighting animals. Wear gloves if you handle your pet after a fight.
• Be sure your pet dogs, cats and ferrets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Vaccination protects pets if they are exposed to rabid animals. Pets too young to be vaccinated should be kept indoors and allowed outside only under direct observation. 
• Don't attract wild animals to your home or yard. Keep your property free of stored bird seed or other foods that may attract wild animals. Feed pets indoors. Tightly cap or put away garbage cans. Board up any openings to your attic, basement, porch or garage. Cap your chimney with screens.
• If nuisance wild animals are living in parts of your home, consult with a nuisance wildlife control expert about having them removed. You can find wildlife control experts, who work on a fee-for-service basis, in your telephone directory under pest control.
• Teach children not to touch any animal they do not know and to tell an adult immediately if they are bitten by any animal.
• If a wild animal is on your property, let it wander away. Bring children and pets indoors and alert neighbors who are outside. You may contact a nuisance wildlife control expert who will remove the animal for a fee.
• Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to the Health Department at (845) 364-2585 (between 9 am - 5 pm, Monday to Friday). After 5 pm or on holidays or weekends call (845) 364- 8600. If possible, do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies.
• Bats can be particularly difficult to keep out of buildings because they can get through cracks as small as a pencil. Methods to keep bats out (bat proofing) of homes and summer camps should be done during the fall and winter. If bats are already inside (e.g., in an attic or other areas), call the Health Department at (845) 364-2585 (between 9 am - 5 pm, Monday to Friday). After 5 pm or on holidays or weekends call (845) 364-8600. 

Treatment after rabies exposure consists of a dose of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) administered as soon as possible after exposure, plus 4 doses of rabies vaccine given over two weeks. 

If there is a wound, the full dose of HRIG should go into the wound, if possible. The first vaccine dose is given at the same time, with the remaining injections given on days 3, 7 and 14 following the initial injection. People who have weakened immune systems may require a fifth dose of vaccine, as determined by their doctor. A person who has already been vaccinated for rabies and is exposed to rabies must receive two booster vaccine doses three days apart immediately after exposure. They do not need an injection of HRIG.

The Rockland County Department of Health offers free rabies shots (vaccinations) for cats, dogs and ferrets on Sunday, April 6, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Rockland County Fire Training Center, 35 Firemen's Memorial Drive in Pomona.

No appointment is needed. To get their free rabies shot: your dog, cat or ferret must be healthy; your pet must be older than three months; your dog must be on a leash; and your cats and ferrets must be on a leash or in a top-opening container.

New York State law requires that all dogs, cats and domesticated ferrets be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age. Owners can be fined up to $250 if they fail to get their pets vaccinated and keep them up to date.

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.

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 more information, visit the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.ny.gov/
diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/
Michael Koski March 31, 2014 at 08:28 AM
Yes, rabies is not to be taken lightly. And the tip to have bats professionally excluded from your home is particularly important. Tammy www.GetBatsOut.com
chrisrus April 05, 2014 at 05:53 PM
Rabies to me is the most terrifying disease. A rabies out break is the closest thing to a real-life zombie plague.

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