(4:20 PM) Youth Attacked As First Rabid Animal Confirmed In County

MAYVILLE — The county’s first confirmed rabid animal was reported after a youth turkey hunter was attacked by a raccoon, the Environmental Health Unit of the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Humans Services announced Tuesday.

The incident took place Sunday while the youth was hunting turkey near Open Meadows Road in the town of North Harmony. County officials said the youth was wearing a heavy jacket and was accompanied by his father.

The raccoon was able to bite through the jacket before the youth was able to fling the rabid animal. The boy’s father was then able to shoot the raccoon.

“This incident should serve as a reminder to residents, particularly outdoor enthusiasts that animal rabies is a serious public health concern and continues to be present in Chautauqua County,” said Mark Stow, county director of Environmental Health Services. “Raccoons are, by far, the animal most likely to be rabid in the state.”

According to county officials, roughly 1/10 animals infected by the rabies virus will become aggressive and attack with no provocation. Other rabid animals may appear tame or docile, and well-meaning animal lovers may be tempted to catch and help the animals.

“As we approach the season when wild animals are having babies, people may hear orphaned animals crying for their mother and think they need to care for the animals,” Stow said. “However, when people take wild or feral animals home they create a real danger for their family, particularly children.”

The county said it is illegal to relocate/harbor wild animals.

Rabies is nearly always a fatal disease when exposure is missed and untreated.

“Preventing rabies in pets is your first line of defense. Pet owners should be aware that New York State law requires all dogs, cats and domesticated ferrets be vaccinated against rabies at 4 months of age.”

The vaccination requirement aims to protect, not only pets and animals from the fatal rabies virus but also, pet owners who may be exposed through their pets. Free rabies vaccination clinics are held at various locations throughout the county during the year.

The next free rabies clinic is Saturday, May 4, from 1-3 p.m. at the Poland Highway Barn, 533 Grubb Hill Road, Kennedy. The initial rabies vaccination is valid for one year and subsequent booster vaccinations are valid for three years.

If an unvaccinated pet or one that is overdue on its vaccination comes in contact with a rabid or suspected rabid animal, the pet must either be euthanized or strictly quarantined for six months.

Vaccinated animals that come in contact with wild animals can simply be given booster vaccinations, as long as they are given within five days of exposure.

Routine inquiries and requests for information can be obtained by calling 753-4481 during business hours. After normal business hours, residents with urgent inquiries can call the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office at 753-4232. Visit cdc.gov and health.ny.gov for general information.