Rabies is a potentially fatal disease which is preventable by staying away from stray and wild animals and vaccinating your pets. If animals unvaccinated they could spend time on confinement or quarantine.
Any and all humans or pets, including livestock, that are bitten are required to be reported to the Local Health Department. (NYS Public Health Law Sections 2140-2146, and NYS Sanitary Code Chapter 10, Part 2- Section 2.14)
Signs and symptoms of rabies you should watch for are:
- Changes in behavior
- Seizures (convulsions)
- Irritability or aggression
- Strange vocalizations (noises/howling/whining)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty walking
- Refusal of food or water
- Paralysis (unable to move body parts)
The Rabies Program is coordinated by:
Veronica Lafave-Boughton, RN
Wash all wounds thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
Report all animal bites to your county health department, even if they seem minor. The phone number for your county health department can be found in the government listing of your telephone directory or the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) website at: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/contact.htm
Try to keep track of the animal that exposed you and report this information to your county health department so the animal can be captured safely, if possible. In the case of a bat, you may be able to safely capture it yourself and take it to your county health department where it will be transferred to the state for rabies testing.
Healthy dogs, cats, ferrets and livestock that have bitten or otherwise caused a potential human exposure to rabies will be confined under the direction of the county health department and observed for ten days following the exposure. If the animal remains healthy during this period, the animal did not transmit rabies at the time of the bite.
Other types of animals that cause a potential human exposure must be tested for rabies under the direction of the county health department. If an animal cannot be observed or tested for rabies, treatment may be necessary for the people exposed. Your county health department will assist you and your physician to determine whether treatment is necessary.
Treatment after rabies exposure consists of a dose of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) administered as soon as possible after exposure, plus 4 doses of rabies vaccine given over two weeks. If there is a wound, the full dose of HRIG should go into the wound, if possible. The first vaccine dose is given at the same time, with the remaining injections given on days 3, 7 and 14 following the initial injection. People who have weakened immune systems may require a fifth dose of vaccine, as determined by their doctor.
A person who has already been vaccinated for rabies and is exposed to rabies must receive two booster vaccine doses three days apart immediately after exposure. They do not need an injection of HRIG.
Exposure to a rabid animal does not always result in rabies. If treatment is initiated promptly following a rabies exposure, rabies can be prevented. If a rabies exposure is not treated and a person develops clinical signs of rabies, the disease almost always results in death.
Contact the program coordinator if you are interested in more information about this topic, such as educational materials, presentations, and resources.