By the Niagara County Department of Health
Animal rabies continues to be a serious public health concern in Niagara County.
Rabies is a viral disease that nearly always results in the death of an animal that is not adequately protected with a rabies vaccination.
In 2019, the Niagara County Department of Health investigated 560 animal bite cases. Rabies was tested for in 142 animals and confirmed in five animals (two raccoons, three bats). Human contact with a suspect rabid animal requires post exposure treatment.
Vaccinated pets that come in contact with suspect rabid animals receive a 45-day check of their health from the health department and require a rabies booster shot. Pets with expired vaccinations that come in contact with suspect rabid animals must receive a rabies booster shot and may be allowed a modified confinement with NCDOH approval. Unvaccinated pets potentially exposed to a rabid animal must undergo a six-month quarantine for observation of potential development of signs suggestive of rabies. If the owner is unable to afford quarantine, humane euthanasia will be administered by an animal health professional.
The Niagara County Department of Health would like to remind county residents of the following precautions to prevent exposure to rabies from wildlife and domestic animals:
•Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals, stray dogs or feral cats.
•Be sure your dogs and cats are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Vaccinated pets serve as a buffer between rabid wildlife and human. Protect them, and you may reduce your risk of exposure to rabies.
•Dogs and cats that receive rabies vaccine after three months of age are protected for a one-year period. Revaccinations may be effective for up to three years.
•Pets too young to be vaccinated should be kept indoors.
•By law, all cats, dogs, and ferrets must have current rabies vaccinations from 4 months of age and on.
The Niagara County Department of Health will conduct five free rabies immunization clinics in 2020.
For more information on faster processing at a clinic by completing and printing paperwork ahead of time, visit: http://www.niagaracounty.com/health/Services/Environmental-Health/Rabies/Rabies-Clinic.
Bat rabies continues to be of particular concern. People have died in the U.S. (including New York) from bat-associated rabies. The cases often report family members recalling a bat in the home, but the possibility of exposure did not occur to them at the time of the incident. Niagara County residents are encouraged to learn about the risk for rabies from any contact with a bat by visiting: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/docs/bigbatbook.pdf.
Once illness occurs, rabies is invariably fatal. However, timely and complete post-exposure treatment is effective at preventing illness from occurring.
If you find a bat in your home, do not release or discard it. Immediately contact the Department of Health environmental health division at 716-439-7444 to discuss the details of the case.