County Health Department Issues Warnings After Reports Of Possible Rabid Animals
MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services has received numerous reports of concern over possible rabid acting animals.
Many of the animals may not have rabies at all but may be in the final stages of the distemper. Raccoons are particularly susceptible and may begin to wander aimlessly in a circle, be disoriented and unaware of its surroundings, suffer paralysis or exhibit other bizarre behavior as a result of brain damage. Many of the symptoms are indistinguishable from, and therefore often mistaken for, the signs of rabies, which can only be determined by laboratory testing.
Distemper is not communicable to humans, however, cats and dogs can and do contract distemper. Having pets vaccinated against rabies and distemper is the best way to protect them.
Rabies is communicable to humans and almost always leads to death without prompt treatment. Exposure must be avoided. The following measures will help protect one’s family and pets from rabies:
¯ Keep bats out of homes and other living spaces by sealing small openings and keeping unscreened doors and windows closed.
¯ If people or pets may have had contact with a bat, it is important to capture the bat for testing and then contact the Health Department to determine whether rabies exposure could have occurred and if the bat should be tested for rabies.
¯ Wash any animal bites and scratches immediately with soap and water and contact a health care provider immediately. Call the Health Department to evaluate the risk of rabies, including whether rabies post-exposure treatment is recommended.
¯ Keep pets’ rabies and distemper vaccinations up-to-date.
¯ Do not feed wild or stray animals and discourage them from seeking food near a home.
¯ Keep garbage cans tightly covered and avoid storing any food, including pet food, outside.
¯ Do not approach or handle any unknown wild or domestic animal. Contact the Environmental Health Unit for a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators for assistance with wildlife.
¯ Teach children to never approach any unfamiliar animal, even if the animal appears friendly, and to tell an adult immediately if they are bitten or scratched.
Rabies is a disease of warm-blooded animals caused by a virus. Raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes are the common disease carriers. The virus is transmitted to humans and other animals through saliva. It can enter the body from a bite, scratch, scrape or open cut. Two forms of rabies exist. An animal has “furious” rabies when it tries to attack and bite. When animals have “dumb” rabies, they are listless and sleepy and have varying degrees of paralysis. Wildlife infected with rabies and distemper act differently than expected. For example, animals usually seen out at night will be seen during the daylight hours.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and ultimately death. Early symptoms of rabies in humans are nonspecific, including fever, headache, and general fatigue. As the disease gets worse, symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, hallucinations, agitation, increased salivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
State law requires that all dogs, cats, and domesticated ferrets over the age of four months be vaccinated against rabies. Upcoming free rabies clinics include:
¯ Saturday, June 22, in Cherry Creek from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cherry Creek Fire Hall on Main Street and Southside Avenue;
¯ Thursday, July 11, in Clymer from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Clymer Highway Building, 8026 Route 474;
¯ Thursday, July 25, in Ellicott from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Ellicott Highway Garage on East Mosher Street, behind Falconer High School.
For further information about rabies and free clinics, contact the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services at 866-604-6789. More information can also be found at cdc.gov/rabies.