Animal rabies continues to be a serious public health problem in New York State. With the coming of warm weather, and increased contact between wildlife and humans and their pets, the Genesee County Health Department reminds all Genesee County residents that it is prepared to help anyone who may have been exposed to rabies or who has questions abut the disease.
Staff of the Genesee County Health Department are available around the clock to respond to rabies questions: 585-344-2580 ext. 5000 during business hours, 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. After normal business hours, residents with urgent inquiries should call the Genesee County Sheriff's Department 585-343-5000.
County residents should be aware that significant numbers of household pets, particularly cats, have been diagnosed as rabid in recent years. Of the more than 20,000 New Yorkers who have been treated for exposure to rabies since 1990, many reported contact with a pet that had fought with a rabid animal. Pet owners need to know that, 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.
It is essential that pet owners make sure that their animals are immunized against rabies, and that vaccinations are kept up to date. Vaccinated animals that come in contact with wild animals can be given booster vaccinations, but these shots must be administered within five days of exposure.For the convenience of local pet owners, the Genesee County Health Department will hold rabies vaccination clinics.
Bat rabies continues to be of particular concern. In the past seven years, two 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, 20 of 22 human rabies deaths among people who acquired the disease in the United States were a result of the bat variant of the rabies virus. Although 95 percent of all bats tested by the New York State Department of Health are negative for rabies, New Yorkers must remain aware of the risk for rabies from any contact with a bat. If you find a bat in your home, do not release or discard it, immediately contact the Genesee County Health Department. The Genesee County Health Department 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, seek medical attention and report the incident to the Genesee County Health Department.
- To avoid unnecessary rabies treatments, all potentially rabid animals which may be exposed someone should be confirmed and observed or tested for rabies. Contact the Genesee County Health Department for more information.
- Although a bite from a rabid animal is the primary way for rabies to be transmitted, contact the Genesee County 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 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.
- Avoid contact with the saliva of any animal that may be rabid.
- Seek advice regarding bat roosts in homes. Immediately report any possible contact with bats, including bats in rooms with sleeping persons, unattended children, or individuals with mental impairment.
For more information, or to report an incident, contact the Genesee County Health Department at 344-2580, ext. 5000.