Erie County receives more reports of potential rabies exposure during warm months

Avoid wild animals to avoid rabies

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Warmer weather is bringing more people outside, and in turn, the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is hearing more reports of potentially rabid animals.

According to the department, which investigates more than 3,000 cases of potential rabies exposure each year, human lives could be at risk.

“When humans are exposed to the saliva or nerve tissue of any warm-blooded animal, as with a bite that breaks the skin, our Department investigates and makes a recommendation as to whether or not post-exposure treatment is needed,” Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “If the animal can be sent for testing, we can confirm or rule out rabies exposure. If we can’t confirm that the animal is negative for rabies, we may refer those cases for post-exposure prophylaxis.”

“Post-exposure prophylaxis” is an effective way to prevent people from developing rabies using a series of vaccines.

Last year, the department recommended post-exposure rabies treatment to more than 500 people. Most of the reports that led to this came in during the warmer months of the year.

“It is crucial for anyone in Erie County who touches a wild mammal or is bitten by any animal to call our Department of Environmental Health at (716) 961-6800,” Dr. Burstein said. “Once we investigate, if a vaccine is needed we make sure the exposed person can receive it, regardless of ability to pay.”

People who frequently work with warm-blooded animals should consider a pre-exposure vaccination in order to help prevent the disease, the department says.

In the wild, raccoons, foxes and skunks should be presumed to be carrying rabies, but any mammal can carry and transmit the disease.

In the past 30 years, woodchucks, cats, cattle, sheep, deer, beavers and a dog in Erie County have been identified as having rabies.

In the county, dogs, cats and ferrets, age four months and older, must be vaccinated against rabies. Here is where some free rabies vaccination clinics are scheduled for this year:

  • September 11 – ECC South
  • September 18 – ECC North
  • September 25 – Cheektowaga Highway Garage

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