LOWVILLE, N.Y. (WWNY) - Stay away from wildlife. That’s the message from Lewis County General Hospital, which wants to keep you safe from rabies.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. Infected mammals can transmit rabies virus to humans and other mammals.
Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. Fortunately, only a few human cases are reported each year in the United States.
Rabies is most often seen among wild animals such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes, but any mammal can be infected with rabies.
Pets and livestock can get rabies if they are not vaccinated to protect them against infection. Among domestic animals, cats are most frequently diagnosed with rabies in New York state.
Rabid animals in the early stages of the disease do not always show symptoms of rabies.
The first sign of rabies is usually a change in an animal's behavior. It may become unusually aggressive, tame, lose its fear of people/enemies, or may become irritable and attack anything in its path. Staggering, convulsions, choking, frothing at the mouth and paralysis are sometimes seen.
People usually get exposed to the rabies virus when an infected animal bites them. Exposure may also occur if saliva from a rabid animal enters an open cut or mucous membrane (the eyes, nose or mouth).
If you are exposed to a potentially rabid animal, wash all wounds thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
Report all animal bites to Lewis County Public Health, even if they seem minor. Try to keep track of the animal that exposed you and report this information so the animal can be captured safely, if possible. In the case of a bat, you may be able to safely capture it yourself so it can then be transferred to the state for rabies testing.
Pets and livestock that have bitten or otherwise caused a potential human exposure to rabies will be confined under the direction of Lewis County Public Health and observed for ten days following the exposure to be sure they are not infected.
The best way to keep pets safe from rabies is to vaccinate them and keep their shots up-to-date.
If your pet has been injured by a rabid animal, contact your veterinarian to get medical care. Even though your pet has been vaccinated, a booster dose of rabies vaccine may be needed within five days of the incident.
To determine what additional follow-up may be needed, report a bite, or for a complete listing of upcoming rabies vaccination clinics visit www.lewiscountypublichealth.com or call 315-376-5453.