Putnam Holds Rabies Vaccination Clinic to Protect Pets and People

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BREWSTER, NY – A free rabies clinic for Putnam’s animals is scheduled for March 26.

Rabies has the highest death rate of any known disease, which is why the Putnam County Health Department, along with local New York State Health Departments, are tasked with the critical work public health of protecting people from the dangerous virus.

Rabies protection is a 24/7, 365 day a year task. Last year, for example, the health department investigated 345 possible exposures to rabies. Of these, staff determined that 27 people had known or high-risk exposures.

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Putnam County Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD said the 27 people exposed in 2021 needed prompt treatment — which is a series of blows.

“This rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, or RPEP, should be administered between the time of exposure and the onset of symptoms because the disease has a mortality rate of nearly 100% once symptoms develop,” said he declared. “Early symptoms of rabies can include fever, headache, weakness, and abnormal sensations at the bite site. As the disease progresses, it affects brain function. Anxiety , confusion and agitation, then delirium, hallucinations and abnormal behaviors follow.

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“Reaching out to the health department to determine risk should be done immediately after exposure so that, if necessary, medical treatment can be promptly initiated. The risks are simply too high,” he said.

PCDOH staff deploy multiple initiatives to ensure the safety of residents and their pets.

A proven way to prevent human cases of rabies is to reduce cases in domestic and wild animals. Three times a year, the health department holds free rabies vaccination clinics for animals in Putnam with the help of a local veterinarian, including one on March 26 at Veterans Memorial Park from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Dogs, cats and ferrets are all eligible for this event, plus two more later in July and November. More information about the March clinic is available online at the Department of Health’s website.

Any mammal can contract rabies, but it occurs more frequently in some species than in others. Animals are sent for rabies testing when an investigation determines that there is a risk of exposure to rabies in a person or pet.

In 2021, cats and dogs made up about 25% of animals requiring rabies testing in Putnam due to human contact. Most of them involved exposures to feral cats, which were abandoned and then live and breed in the wild. Bats represent almost all other potential exposures for Putnam residents, however, nearly 75%. Raccoons, skunks and foxes have also tested positive at Putnam, but less frequently.

These numbers are the reason for the Putnam County Health Department’s support and involvement in a “Trap-Neuter-Release” program for cats and the “Capture-the-Bat” initiative.

The Trap, Neuter and Release or “TNR” concept is a humane and effective approach to caring for feral and stray cats, a practice that has decades of success behind it. The cats are captured, neutered and released after being vaccinated against rabies.

Scientific studies show that TNR improves the lives of feral cats and their relationships with people who live nearby. It also decreases feral cat colony size and the potential for human exposure to rabies. The Health Department has partnered with Putnam AdvoCats, Inc. to create a Feral Cat Task Force to implement this work and respond to this growing health concern in Putnam.

While exposure of cats and dogs tends to occur year-round, encounters with bats increase in spring and summer, when bats are most active. In fact, last summer the need for bat testing started to increase in April and peaked during the months of July through September. During those three summer months, 28 bats were captured after potential human contact, which is more than half of the year’s total.

“Despite higher numbers in the spring and summer, it’s important to realize that bat encounters happen year-round,” said public health health assistant Marianne Burdick, MPH, who oversees the program. rabies control at the Putnam County Health Department. “Bat populations increase in warm weather, but bats can creep into a home at any time of the year.”

In addition to coordinating the vaccination of pets, the health department promotes awareness on how to safely capture a bat if found indoors. This is especially important if the bat is found after being in a room with a sleeping person, who may have been bitten and unknowingly infected. The bite mark is usually small and easy to miss. A video showing how to capture the animal is posted on the Putnam County and New York State Health Department websites.

Responding around the clock to calls from residents who may have been exposed to rabies and providing post-exposure preventive care, when appropriate, is critical to preventing rabies deaths. Public health hygienists in the health department are knowledgeable and experienced and can determine a resident’s risk in a variety of situations, including exposure from a bite or scratch from a bat or other wildlife. , or someone’s pet. Wild animals, if captured, are tested immediately after exposure instead of quarantine and observation. Pets, on the other hand, are regularly quarantined for observation to see if rabies develops.

The health department number to report all animal bites or contact with wild animals is 845-808-1390. After hours, weekends or holidays, call this number and press ‘3’ to access the Environmental Health Helpline. Health department staff will return your call. If a domestic animal encounters a wild animal, the health department must also be informed promptly. Residents should not handle an exposed pet without instructions from the health department and the use of rubber gloves.

Now that the weather is warming up and the days are getting longer, more and more people will be spending time outdoors. Combine that with springtime wildlife births and sightings of baby animals and it’s easy to see why more rabies exposures occur at this time of year. “The wildlife is best left alone by the residents,” says Ms. Burdick, an outspoken wildlife advocate. “Baby animals are rarely abandoned by their mothers and need to be rescued,” she continues. “Feeding, touching or removing wild animals from their natural environment can cause more harm than good. If the person is scratched or exposed to saliva, it costs the life of the animal when tested. No one wants It’s better to leave all the wild animals alone.”

If a resident is certain an animal is injured or needs help, the best course of action is to call a wildlife rehabilitator. These professionals are licensed and trained to assess the situation and care for orphaned or injured wild animals. The New York State Department of Conservation provides online wildlife health information and a database to search for local wildlife rehabilitators, based on the type of animal in question.. For more information, visit the NYS DEC website.

The mission of the Putnam County Health Department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to enhance and protect the health of the Putnam County community, comprised of nearly of 100,000 inhabitants. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion, and health education. For more information, please visit our county website at www.putnamcountyny.com, or visit our social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PutnamHealthNY.

The Putnam County Health Department spearheads public health efforts to prevent rabies transmission by working with multiple partners.

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