Take Steps To Protect Yourself From Rabies This Summer

Commissioner of Health, Indu Gupta, MD, MPH is reminding Onondaga County residents to take precautions to protect yourself and your family from rabies. Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals that is transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Many rabies cases occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. Fortunately, human rabies is rare in the United States.  Although there is no treatment for rabies, it is PREVENTABLE.

Rabies cases in Onondaga County
In 2014, of the 482 animals tested for rabies, 22 animals tested positive for rabies. This included bats, raccoons, cats, foxes, and skunks. Even though Onondaga County has not had any cases of rabies in humans, due to the high number of animals being tested and testing positive for rabies, there is a greater risk of human exposure.
There are many steps that are recommended to help reduce of the risk of rabies in animals and humans:

Prevent your pet from getting rabies

  • Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs. A requirement by New York State Public Health Laws states that all puppies and kittens get their initial shot at three months of age, with a booster shot every three years.  Ferrets must get a shot every year.
  • Maintain control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision.
  • Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
  • Call your town or municipality for assistance or guidance on how to remove stray animals from your neighborhood.

Teach children rules to stay safe around animals
Give your child some guidelines to follow. Do not frighten young children, but make sure they learn some basic rules about protecting themselves from strange or unfamiliar animals.

  • Children should be supervised while interacting with animals. Teach children to wash their hands right after playing with animals or anything in the animals’ environment (e.g., cages, beds, and food and water dishes). Children younger than 5 years old should be extra cautious when visiting farms and having direct contact with farm animals, including animals at petting zoos and fairs.
  • Children and adults should be reminded to respect a dog’s personal space. Never approach a dog, especially one who’s tied or confined behind a fence or in a car. Don’t pet a dog—even your own—without letting him see and sniff you first.
  • Do not disturb a dog while sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or caring for puppies. Be cautious around strange dogs. Always assume that a dog who does not know you, may see you as an intruder or a threat.
  • Do not touch or go near an animal if it does not belong to you.
  • Do not ever try to feed a wild animal when you are at a park, or anywhere.

Protect your families from bats
About 5 percent of bats may carry rabies so take steps to keep bats out of your house:

  • “Bat-proof” your home by looking for holes in places like the garage, attic, and basement and plug them with steel wool. Repair window screen holes with wire mesh and caulk any other openings or cracks.
  • Trap a bat if you find a bat in your house.  Before trapping the bat, protect yourself with gloves and a hat.  Keep the bat inside; do not let it escape outdoors.  Collect the bat in a container with a secure lid. For complete instructions of trapping a bat visit: /health/ADP.html.
  • Once the bat is caught, call the Animal Disease Control Program at Environmental Health at 435-3165 to bring the bat for testing.
  • If you cannot trap the bat, call a trapper for assistance.

For more information about rabies prevention, visit:

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