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August 7, 2017

Did You Encounter a Bat in Your Home? Capture It and Call the County Health Department -
Health Officials Offer Advice on Capturing Bats in the Home

OSWEGO COUNTY -The Oswego County Health Department is reminding residents of the importance of capturing any bats that may have come in contact with a human or pet. Several people in Oswego County have had to receive post-exposure rabies treatments over the past few months because they may have been exposed to rabies from a bat, and the bat wasn't available for testing.

"In all circumstances where there could be any question of potential exposure to a rabid bat, the Oswego County Health Department strongly advises people to capture the bat and call the health department," said Jiancheng Huang, Director of the Oswego County Health Department.

An exposure is defined as a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva or nervous system tissue through a mucous membrane (such as the inside of eyes, nose or mouth), or an open break in the skin.

There are several circumstances where a person be potentially exposed to rabies from a bat. They include:

"People can develop rabies after undetected exposure to a rabid bat. Rabies treatment is recommended if the bat is not available for testing, and of course if the bat tests positive for rabies," said Huang.

The state Department of Health has developed a short video with instructions on how to safely capture a bat indoors. To view the video, go to http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/.

"Our staff is available around the clock to respond to incidents that involve possible exposure to a rabid animal," said Huang. "If we determine that the animal needs to be tested, we will make arrangements to send it to the state Health Department laboratory near Albany. I ask residents to catch and keep the bat if they find a bat indoors and suspect it might have had physical contact with a person or pet. This way we can have the animal tested if our department specialists determine that possible exposures have occurred."

So far in 2017, the Oswego County Health Department has submitted 37 bats to the New York State Department of Health for testing. Two bats have tested positive for rabies.

"If a person or pet has any physical contact with a bat, or if you're not sure whether contact occurred, precautions need to be taken immediately," said Huang. "The incident must be investigated as soon as possible to determine if any person or domestic pet may have been exposed to the rabies virus. If the possibility of exposure cannot be ruled out, it would be necessary to begin the post-exposure treatment. If the bat isn't captured, or if it tests positive for rabies, any person who may have been exposed must receive rabies shots as soon as possible."

Pet owners are advised to keep their pet's rabies vaccinations current. Pets that have a current rabies vaccine only need to receive a booster shot if they're potentially exposed to the rabies virus; if the pet has not been vaccinated, it must be euthanized or quarantined for six months.

New York State law requires that all cats, dogs, and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies. The first rabies vaccine should be given at three months of age. Ferrets require an annual vaccination. For dogs and cats, a second vaccination is required within one year of the first, and every three years thereafter. For pets to receive the 3-year booster shot, owners need to show that the pet was previously vaccinated, and should bring their pet's last rabies vaccination certificate to the clinic.

The next rabies clinic will be Wednesday, Aug. 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bristol Hill Landfill maintenance garage, 3125 State Route 3, Volney. Clinics are also scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Palermo Town Highway Garage, 1572 County Rte. 45; and Wednesday, Nov. 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Oswego County Highway Garage, 31 Schaad Drive, Scriba.

The health department suggests a $7 donation per animal to help cover the cost of the rabies clinics, but no one will be turned away. Dogs should be leashed and cats and ferrets should be in a carrier.

To prevent bats from entering the home, plug any holes in the house with steel wool.

To report a possible exposure, or for more information about rabies, call the Oswego County Health Department weekdays at 315-349-3564. In an emergency during evenings, weekends, or holidays, call the health department's answering service at 315-341-0086.

For more information on rabies, visit https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/.

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