Animal rabies continues to be a serious public health problem in New York State. During warm weather, and increased contact between wildlife and people and their pets, Washington County Public Health reminds all Washington County residents that the Public Health Department is prepared to provide guidance to anyone who may have been potentially exposed to rabies, a suspected rabid animal, or who has questions about the disease.
Did You Know:
Rabies virus is spread through saliva, most commonly from the bite or scratch of infected animal.
Be aware of the risk of rabies from wildlife, especially bats. During 1960-2018, among 89 US acquired human rabies cases, 62 (70%) were attributed to bats.
International travel? Since 1960, 36 (28%) US residents have died of rabies from bites from infected dogs while traveling abroad.
Since 2015, three dog rabies cases have been brought into the United States in rescue dogs adopted from countries with high risk for rabies.
HUMAN RABIES IS 99% FATAL. However, HUMAN RABIES IS 100% PREVENTABLE:
- Vaccinate pets against rabies
- Avoid contact with wildlife and unknown animals
- Seek medical care ASAP after being bitten or scratched by an animal
- If a bat can be safely collected and tested, this can inform the need for postexposure prophylaxis
- Contact with bat includes bites and scratches, which are often small and can be over looked
- Timely administration of postexposure prophylaxis (PEP)
Although human rabies is considered a rare disease, it remains one with extremely high consequences.
Questions: Contact your local Public Health Department.
Rabies Vaccine For Pets
Pet owners need to know that New York State law requires all dogs, cats, and domesticated ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies. If an unvaccinated pet or 1 that’s overdue on its vaccination comes in contact with a rabid or suspected rabid animal, the pet must be destroyed or strictly quarantined for 6 months.
It is essential that pet owners make sure that their animals are immunized against rabies, and, that their vaccinations are kept up-to-date. Vaccinated animals that come in contact with wild animals that test positive for rabies, are required to have a booster vaccination, which must be given within 5 days of exposure.
Free Rabies Clinic
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View 2019 Rabies Clinic Schedule (Opens a New Window).
For the convenience of local pet owners, Washington County Public Health continues to conduct free rabies clinics that routinely are held from March through November annually. There is no charge for the vaccination, however donations are accepted.
Keep the following in mind if you attend the Rabies Clinics:
*Bring proof of their previous vaccination with you!!! (Tags do not count as proof of vaccination, you need the paperwork.)
*Leave pets in your vehicle until you have registered your animals
*All pets must be on a leash or in a carrier.
*All Dogs and Cats should be vaccinated against rabies @ 3 months of age and re-vaccinated one year later, then every three years thereafter.
*Ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies @ 3 months of age and re-vaccinated yearly thereafter.
Bat Rabies Bat rabies continues to be of particular concern. In the past decade, 2 people have died in New York State from bat-associated rabies. In each case, family members recalled a bat in the home, but the possibility of exposure did not occur to them at the time of the incidents. Since 1990, 34 of 37 human rabies deaths among people who acquired the disease in the United States were as a result of bat rabies. While approximately 97% of all bats tested by the New York State Health Department are negative for rabies, New Yorkers must remain aware of the risk for rabies from any contact with a bat.
Note: If you find a bat in your home, catch it! Do not release or discard it, immediately contact Washington County Public Health at 518-746-2400.
How to Catch a Bat
To view a video on how to safely catch a bat in your home, you can watch the video below or visit the New York Department of Health Rabies page for your video options.
Steps to Avoid Rabies Exposure
Washington County Public Health urges all residents to take these common sense steps to avoid exposure to rabies:
- If you are bitten, scratched, or have contact with an animal you believe to be rabid, immediately wash the wound with soap and water, seek medical attention and report the incident to Washington County Public Health.
- To avoid unnecessary rabies treatments, all potentially rabid animals that may have exposed someone should be confined and observed or tested for rabies. Contact Washington County Public Health for more information.
- Although a bite from a rabid animal is the primary way for rabies to be transmitted, contact the Washington County Public Health Department regarding any contact with an animal that may be rabid.
- Avoid contact with any wild animal. Be suspicious of wild animals that are unusually tame or aggressive, especially those that attack your pets. Do not attract raccoons or skunks 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 any involvement with a suspected rabid wild animal. Pet owners should keep a pair of thick gloves handy for just such situations, and should bathe pets after wildlife encounters whenever possible.
- Do not handle dead or injured wild animals or domestic pets. If you must handle it, wear protective clothing, work gloves, and/or use a shovel to avoid skin contact.
- Avoid contact with the saliva of any animal that may be rabid.
- Do not release bats found in homes or cabins. Catch the bat and seek advice from Washington County Public Health about what to do with the bat. Immediately report any possible contact with bats, and such situations as bats in rooms or camp cabins with sleeping persons, unattended children, or individuals with mental impairment. Postexposure prophylaxis/treatment can be considered for people who were in the same room as a bat and who might be unaware that a bite or direct contact had occurred (e.g., a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room or an adult witnesses a bat in the room with a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated person) and rabies cannot be ruled out by testing the bat.
- Visit NYSDOH Page: What Can People Do to Protect Themselves Against Rabies Opens a New Window.
- Visit the CDC's page: https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/animals/bats.html
Bats In The Bedroom Can Spread Rabies Without An Obvious Bite
An elderly Wyoming woman died and more than two dozen people were treated for possible rabies exposure after her family failed to realize that a nighttime encounter with a bat put her at risk of rabies.
Read the full NPR article from 2016 here: bats-in-the-bedroom-can-spread-rabies-without-an-obvious-bite
Reporting ALL Bites AND Exposures
If you have been bitten, scratched or have had contact with the saliva of an animal that you believe is rabid, wash the wound immediately and seek medical care.
All animal bites and exposures should be reported to Public Health.
- Non-Bite Exposure (Scratch or Abrasion)
- Contact with saliva
Washington County Residents call Public Health at 518-746-2400. To find other County Contacts, visit: Rabies information County Contacts Opens a New Window.
For the Specific Sanitary Code, visit: State Sanitary Code- Rabies Opens a New Window.
Who to Call With Questions
Washington County Public Health staff members that are educated on rabies are available to respond to rabies questions. Routine inquiries and requests for information can be obtained by calling 518-746-2400 during business hours. After normal business hours, residents with urgent inquiries can call the above number and speak with an on-call Nurse.