Fallsburg, NY – Sullivan County Public Health Services is advising the public to stay away from stray cats as well as wild animals and to be vigilant of your surroundings, especially if you live or work near a wooded area or neighborhood with feral cats.
A feral kitten recently bit a person in the Town of Fallsburg, and they are now being treated for rabies exposure. Public Health Services is conducting an investigation with animal control to determine if more individuals have been exposed.
Rabies continues to be a concern in Sullivan County. Summer and warmer weather means more time spent outdoors as well as an increase in the wild animal population. But with a few basic safeguards, you can help protect your family and pets from being exposed to the rabies virus.
Rabies is a deadly disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord and can be transmitted from infected mammals to humans and other mammals. Rabies is most commonly found in raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes. Pets can get rabies if they are not vaccinated to protect them from the disease.
The public should be aware that if you feed a feral (wild) cat, it becomes your legal responsibility to care for and vaccinate it for rabies. Under New York Consolidated Laws, PBH §2140, an “Owner” shall mean any person keeping, harboring, or having charge or control of, or permitting any dog, cat or domesticated ferret to remain on or be lodged or fed within such person's house, yard, or premises.
The best way to keep pets safe from rabies is to get them vaccinated and keep their shots up to date. If your pet is injured by a rabid animal, contact your veterinarian to get medical attention. Even if your pet has been vaccinated, a booster dose of rabies vaccine may be needed within five days of the incident. Pets that are too young to be vaccinated should be kept indoors and allowed outside only under direct supervision. Contact your Public Health Services to determine what follow-up may be needed.
People can also help protect themselves from rabies by observing the following guidelines:
• Don’t feed, touch, or adopt wild animals, stray dogs or cats.
• Be sure your pets and livestock are up to date on their rabies vaccinations.
• Keep family pets indoors at night. Don’t leave them outside unattended or let them roam free.
• Don’t attract wild animals to your home or yard. Keep your property free of stored bird seed or other foods that may attract wild animals.
• Feed pets indoors.
• Tightly cap or put away garbage cans.
• Board up any openings to your attic, basement, porch, or garage. Cap your chimneys with screens.
• If nuisance wild animals are living in your home, consult with a nuisance wildlife control expert about having them removed. You can find wildlife control experts in the phone book under pest control.
• DO NOT discard a bat found in your sleeping area upon waking, or one you may have come into contact with, try to trap or capture it if you can do it safely, so that it can be tested.
• Teach children not to touch any animal they do not know and to tell an adult immediately if they are bitten by any animal.
• If a wild animal is on your property, let it wander away. Bring children and pets indoors and alert neighbors who are outside.
• Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to your county health department. If possible, do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies.
For questions or more information, call Sullivan County Public Health Services at 845-292-5910; after hours, ask for the on-call Disease Control nurse.