Avoid Wild Animals, Vaccinate Pets Against Rabies

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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With the identification of a second raccoon infected with rabies in Manhattan in recent weeks, the Health Department is reminding New Yorkers to stay away from raccoons, skunks, bats, stray dogs and cats and other wild animals that can carry rabies.

12 rabid animals have been identified in New York City this year. Eight were found in the Bronx, two in Manhattan (most recently in Central Park), one in Queens (Long Island City) and one in Staten Island (Tottenville). Raccoons are the most commonly reported rabid animals in New York City. Rabid raccoons are a relatively common occurrence in Staten Island and the Bronx, but rare in Queens and Manhattan. Bats with rabies have also been found in all five boroughs.

People and unvaccinated animals can get rabies, most often through a bite from an infected animal. Infection leads to a severe brain disease that causes death unless the person is treated promptly after being bitten. To reduce the risk of rabies, New Yorkers should avoid all wild animals, as well as any animal that seems sick, disoriented or unusually placid or aggressive. Report such animals by calling 311. Animals that have attacked or may attack should be reported to 911.

In 2008, 19 animals tested positive for rabies in New York City. They included 13 from the Bronx (4 raccoons, 7 skunks, 1 bat and 1 cat) and 4 from Staten Island Staten Island (all raccoons), as well as a bat from Brooklyn and a raccoon from Queens.

To protect yourself against rabies:

* Do not touch or feed wild animals, or stray dogs or cats.

* Keep garbage in tightly sealed containers.

* Stay away from any animal that is behaving aggressively or a wild animal that appears ill or is acting unusually friendly. Call 311 or your local precinct to report the animal.

* If you find a bat indoors that may have had contact with someone, do not release it before calling 311 to determine whether it should be tested.

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To protect your pet against rabies:

* Make sure your dog or cat is up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.

* Do not leave your pets outdoors unattended.

* Do not try to separate animals that are fighting.

* If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact your veterinarian, and report the incident to 311.

* Feed pets indoors.

If you are bitten by an animal:

* Immediately wash the wound with lots of soap and water.

* Seek medical care from your health care provider.

* If you know where the animal is, call 311 to have it captured.

* If the animal is a pet, get the owner’s name, address and telephone number to give to the Health Department so they can ensure the animal is not rabid.

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