The Onondaga County Commissioner of Health, Indu Gupta, MD, MPH, reports that the New York State Health Department’s laboratory has confirmed that a bat found in the Village of Liverpool tested positive for rabies. This is the second animal that has tested positive for rabies in 2017.
The Health Department reminds residents that rabid animals can be present any time of the year and advises taking the following steps to help prevent exposure to rabies:
- Never handle unfamiliar animals, either wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
- Wash any wound from an animal bite or scratch thoroughly with soap and water. Seek medical attention immediately.
- Call the Animal Disease Control Program at (315) 435-3165 if you find a bat in your home. Capture the bat that you or your pet were exposed to so that it can be tested for rabies. Learn how to capture a bat at http://www.ongov.net/health/ADP.html.
- Bat-proof your house by plugging any holes in the house with steel wool.
- Keep your pet’s rabies vaccinations current. This is especially important for dogs, cats, and ferrets.
Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. It is also rarely contracted through breaks in the skin or contact with mucous membranes.
According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.
Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.
Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptoms then progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.
Worldwide it is estimated that there are more than 69,000 deaths due to rabies annually.
Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.