ERIE CO.—Within the last week, two Erie County residents have been bitten by rabid animals, and one has come in contact but avoided being bit, according to the Erie County Department of Health. A West Seneca child, an Alden man and a Buffalo family all came in contact with a rabid animal in the month of June.
To date in 2014, there have been 13 animals that have tested positive for rabies. The ECDOH contributes the warmer weather for the increase in rabid animals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, rabies is a viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The virus affects the central nervous system and ultimately causes disease in the brain which can result in death. Early symptoms of the virus include a fever, headache and general weakness or discomfort.
The virus, however, is 100 percent preventable even after coming in contact with rabies. The Post Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP, vaccine is indicated for those who have been exposed to a rabid animal and should begin as soon as possible after coming in contact with the virus.
“Rabies is urgent, but not an emergency,” said Mary St. Mary, a medical care administrator for the ECDOH. “Wash well with soap and water then seek medical attention, but you don’t have to go to the emergency room.”
St. Mary also said it’s important to call the ECDOH’s Division of Environmental Health at 961-6800 if you suspect an animal has rabies, or if you or a family member has been bitten by a rabid animal.
“You can always call the experts, they’ll be able to tell you everything,” St. Mary said.
To help prevent coming in contact with suspected rabid animals, the ECDOH advises residents to bat-proof their houses. This can include keeping screens and doors shut and sealing all exterior holes. To avoid attracting wild animals, the ECDOH says pet food and water dishes should not be placed outside, as even empty bowls can attract wild or stray animals and all garbage cans should be securely covered.
If a bat enters your home, the ECDOH asks that you safely capture the animal and call them.
“The easiest way to capture a bat is to let it land on a table and put something over it,” St. Mary said. “A garbage can, or Tupperware®, will work, bats are very small.”
St. Mary said you should then slide the container off the table with something underneath it, such as cardboard, and tape it together.
The ECDOH’s website says it’s important to keep the bat in one piece, as it needs the skull to be intact to test for rabies. The website also has links to videos on the New York State Department of Health’s website that give tutorials on how to capture a bat.
Peter Tripi, senior public health sanitarian for Erie County, explained the results of the rabies test for an animal averages 24 hours or less from the time the ECDOH is contacted. If the animal is tested positive for rabies, phone calls to everyone who may have come in contact with the animal is contacted.
“We leave no stone unturned during any positive investigation,” Tripi said.
For more information on bats and rabies visit the ECDOH’s website www2.erie.gov/health/.