NCDOH Says Be Aware of Wildlife to Guard Against Rabies Virus Infection
The Niagara County Department of Health is raising awareness about the dangers of the rabies virus and reminding residents what to do when they encounter wildlife, whether it is indoors or out.
It’s important to report all domestic and wild animal bites or contact with wildlife to the Niagara County Department of Health’s Environmental Division as soon as possible. Call 716-439-7444.
“Any potential contact with either a wild or domestic animal should be reported right away,” said Paul Dicky, Director of Environmental Health for the Niagara County Department of Health. “Staff will investigate to determine the threat of exposure to people and pets.”
The Niagara County Department of Health fully supports the messaging of environmental conservation organizations and wildlife rehabilitators who promote the messaging “If you care, leave it there”. Learn to appreciate wildlife from a safe distance and resist the urge to touch or pick up any wildlife. Human contact with wildlife can carry unintended consequences detrimental to both humans and the animals that people are intending to help.
Niagara County Associate Supervising Public Health Sanitarian Scott Ecker added that bat encounters are also a concern. “Because bats are a potential carrier of the rabies virus, if you wake up because a bat landed on you while you were sleeping, or if you wake up and find a bat in your room, you should try to safely capture it, without further exposing yourself, and have it tested,” he said. “This also applies if you find a bat in a room with an unattended child or someone with a mental impairment. Basically, if a bat is found indoors and there is a chance it may have had contact with a person or a pet, it is extremely important not to release it.”
For instructions on how to capture a bat, watch the New York State Department of Health video, “Catch a Bat Safely,” at https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. It is most often seen among wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, although any mammal can be infected with the disease – including people and pets.
People usually get exposed to the rabies virus from the bite of an infected animal; however, exposure can also occur if saliva from a rabid animal enters an open cut or mucous membrane such as the eyes, nose or mouth.
To minimize the chance of exposure to rabies, people should be wary of any animals that act abnormally. Unusual actions include aggressive or tame behavior, no fear of humans, aimless wandering, or appearing disoriented.
The health department offers these tips to further reduce the risk of exposure to the rabies virus:
- DO NOT pick up, touch or feed wildlife or stray dogs and cats. Wild or feral animals, including their babies, can be rabid. Teach children to do the same.
- If a wild animal is on your property, get indoors and let it wander away.
- Keep pets and livestock animals up to date on their vaccinations.
- Don’t let pets roam free and bring them indoors at night.
Ecker said that the rabies virus is active throughout the year. “We typically see more rabies activity because people are outdoors more with the upcoming warmer weather, but they should be aware of wildlife and the dangers of rabies year-round,” he cautioned.
Dicky reminds pet owners that all dogs, cats, and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies. “Even animals that remain indoors can be exposed to rabies through a bite or scratch from a rabid bat,” he said. “Immunizing your pets is the most effective protection from rabies virus.”
The Niagara County Department of Health will host its next rabies clinic from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, April 15 at the Town of Somerset Highway Department located at 8700 Haight Road, Town of Somerset. Appointments to attend the clinic are mandatory and can be made online at www.niagaracounty.com/rabiesclinic starting on April 10, 2023. Please call 716 439-7511 with any questions or to register by phone.