Just five months into 2013, the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department has already identified 12 animals as being infected with rabies, according to a CentraNY report. St. Lawrence County is the largest county in area in the state of New York.
"Last year, we didn't have one rabies case until June,” said Dr. Susan Hathaway, Director of Public Health. Rabies is a viral infection that can cause death in humans, pets and livestock. The large number of infected animals already found in St. Lawrence County has officials worried that it could spread even farther.
Dr. Hathaway emphasizes that it especially important to avoid contact with animals that may be carrying it and to be aware of what steps to take immediately if you or a pet are bitten by an animal that may be carrying the rabies virus.
"We end up doing quite a bit of human post-exposure prophylaxis, giving vaccines to people, once we are able to test an animal to find out if it was rabid, says Dr. Hathaway.
This is a reminder of the importance of keeping pets—especially any pet that goes outside--up to dated on their preventative vaccines, but even with that, an exposure requires medical intervention. "Nothing is 100 percent. If you're animal is bitten, they usually recommend that within five days they get a booster shot,” said veterinarian Tony Beane.
St. Lawrence County is not the only area in NY that is seeing an alarming increase in rabies cases.
RABID RACCOONS ON THE RISE ON STATEN ISLAND
In May, the Staten Island Advance reported that “…at least 10 raccoons on Staten Island have been diagnosed with rabies over the last few months…and an alert was sent out to local veterinarians by the city Health Department.”
Staten Island also warned of the danger to pets and humans. Dr. Lisa Esposito, a veterinarian with Richmond Valley Veterinary practice, warned, "If their animal goes out and gets a bite wound of unknown origin, they have to go into a six-month quarantine [if the animal is not up to date on its rabies shots]," Dr. Esposito said. She warned it can happen in your own yard.
Keeping cats indoors at all times and watching dogs while they are outside are precautionary steps the Health Department suggests in its alert.
SKUNKS AND STRAY CATS ARE THE GREATEST DANGER
One rabid bat was also found on the Island so far this year. The Health Department suggests residents stay away from stray and wild animals, "no matter how helpless they look."
However, skunks and stray cats are the most likely animals to be infected with rabies, the Health Department warned.
RABIES ALSO ON THE RISE IN ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MARYLAND
A May 8, 2013, the Capital Gazette in Maryland reported, “Rabies is on the rise in Anne Arundel County.”
The report states that,” in late April, two dogs killed a rabid groundhog in Pasadena. Two days later, a dog was attacked by a rabid raccoon in North Shore.”
A total of 13 wild animals have tested positive for the disease this year, compared to seven in the first five months of 2012 and four in all of 2011.
So far this year, 56 people have been treated for possible exposure to the disease.
Rabies Rise Traced to Bats, Feral Cats and Trap, Neuter, Release