Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW) - Rabies is a growing problem in Western New York.
"Last Summer we saw the highest number of animals testing positive for rabies," Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gail Burstein said.
More than 30 animals contracted the disease in 2012. Experts said the increase is because of last year's warm winter and hot summer.
Now, the Erie County Department of Health is stepping in holding free rabies vaccination clinics for dogs, cats and ferrets. The first session will take place at the end of the month.
"It's really important to keep your animals safe," Burstein said.
Also about 400 people were eligible to get their rabies shot.
"In the county we want to be very cautious and make sure anyone who has been subjected to rabies is immunized because rabies is 100 percent fatal if you don't do something to protect yourself," Burstein said.
You don't actually have to be bitten by an infected animal. You can be exposed to a sick animal through their saliva. A rabies shot is recommended within 10 days exposure.
"If you touched your dog who was exposed to a rodent or skunk and the dog has saliva from those animals you could be exposed," Burstein said.
If you don't get treated, the symptoms continue to get worse.
"You can start to develop weakness and trouble swallowing. Then, you may not even be able to move the muscles that help you breath," Burstein said.
There were 5200 animals vaccinated last year. If you would like to participate in the clinic Wednesday, January 30th from 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Buffalo Community Center.