As summer vacation begins and a large portion of the community makes their way upstate, Sullivan County Public Health Services is advising the public to stay away from wild animals and be vigilant of your surroundings while camping, hiking or playing in area parks near wooded areas. A grey fox that bit two people in the Town of Thompson has tested positive for rabies, and the individuals are being treated.
Rabies continues to be a health concern in Sullivan County. Summer and warmer weather means more time spent outdoors as well as an increase in the wild animal population. With a few basic safeguards, you can help protect your family and pets from being exposed to the rabies virus. Rabies is a deadly disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord, and can be transmitted from infected mammals to humans and other mammals. Rabies is most commonly found in raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes. Pets can get rabies if they are not vaccinated to protect them from the disease.
The best way to keep pets safe from rabies is to get them vaccinated and keep their shots up to date. If your pet is injured by a rabid animal, contact your veterinarian to get medical attention. Even if your pet has been vaccinated, a booster dose of rabies vaccine may be needed within five days of the incident. Pets that are too young to be vaccinated should be kept indoors and allowed outside only under direct supervision. Contact your local health department to determine what follow-up may be needed.
People can also help protect themselves from rabies by observing the following guidelines:
- Don’t feed, touch, or adopt wild animals, stray dogs or cats.
- Be sure your pets and livestock are up to date on their rabies vaccinations.
- Keep family pets indoors at night. Don’t leave them outside unattended or let them roam free.
- 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 chimneys with screens.
- If nuisance wild animals are living in your home, consult with a nuisance wildlife control expert about having them removed. You can find wildlife control experts in the phone book under pest control.
- DO NOT discard a bat found in your sleeping area upon waking, or one you may have come into contact with, try to trap or capture it if you can do it safely, so that it can be tested.
- 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.
- Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to your county health department. If possible, do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies.
For questions or more information, call Sullivan County Public Health Services at (845) 292-5910, or visit the New York State Department of Health website at: www.nyhealth.gov/communicable/rabies/fact_sheet.htm.