Lockport, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The Niagara County Department of Health received confirmation Thursday from the NYSDOH Wadsworth Rabies Laboratory that a Niagara Falls raccoon submitted for testing Wednesday was rabid.
The raccoon had contact with a dog on 20th Street in the City of Niagara Falls and was subsequently captured by a wildlife rehabilitator and euthanized.
This is the first rabid ground animal confirmed in the County this year. Previously, only three bats were confirmed as rabid in 2011.
Confirmation of rabies in a wild animal in the City of Niagara Falls is unusual. However rare, rabid animals have occasionally been identified within the city over the years since the rabies prevention program began in the county .
Rabies is a lethal disease that can spread from infected wild animals and pets to humans. However, it can be prevented.
The NCDOH encourages all residents to take precautions against rabies exposure by avoiding contact with wild and stray animals, and to assure their pets are vaccinated against this lethal disease.
Infected animals spread rabies virus through their saliva. People and unvaccinated animals can be infected from a rabid animal from a bite or if the saliva gets into the eyes, nose, mouth or a break in the skin. Rabies is endemic in bats and raccoons in New York State. Other wild animals, especially skunks and gray and red fox, are more likely than family pets to be infected with rabies because of exposure to raccoons and the widespread vaccination of pet cats, dogs and ferrets.
Last year, the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center tested over 6,600 wild and domestic animals for rabies. Of the more than 2,800 bats tested, 84 were positive for rabies (8 in Niagara County), highlighting the need to know how to capture bats safely and how to submit them for testing.
To prevent rabies:
• Avoid handling bats. If you find a bat in your house and can capture it safely, contact the Department for assistance. They will tell you how to submit the bat for rabies testing and assess your need for preventive treatment. View a video on how to catch a bat safely online at the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/.
• Prevent bats, raccoons, and other wild animals from entering your home and other spaces where people and pets may be present.
• Keep your pet cats, dogs, and ferrets up-to-date on their rabies vaccines. Consider vaccinating livestock and horses for rabies.
• Do not leave your pets outside alone or let them roam free.
• Do not leave food or water outdoors for your pets or for wild animals.
• Keep garbage and recycling bins securely covered to avoid attracting wild or stray animals.
• Never handle wild or stray animals, even if they are young, injured, or appear friendly.
• Teach children never to approach or touch unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic.
• Let wild animals and unknown pets wander away on their own if they are on your property or nearby. Bring children and pets indoors and alert neighbors who are outside. Notify local law enforcement of any threatening wild animals.
• If bitten by a wild or stray animal, wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water and contact your health care provider and the Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division immediately at 716-439-7444. If the animal can be captured safely without further exposure, it can be tested for rabies. If the animal does not have rabies, preventive treatment will not be needed. If the animal does have rabies, individuals can start treatment immediately to prevent rabies infection and disease.