Following Capital Region Rabies Case, State Health Commissioner Offers Steps to Prevent Rabies

June is Rabies Awareness Month

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 24, 2011) – Following a case of rabies in a kitten confirmed in Rensselaer County, New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. today encouraged all New Yorkers to take precautions against rabies exposure from wild and stray animals and to assure that pets are vaccinated against this potentially lethal disease.

"Rabies is a preventable disease that can spread from infected wild animals and pets to humans," said Commissioner Shah. "Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pet dogs, cats and ferrets and avoiding contact with all wild and stray animals."

June is Rabies Awareness Month. Rabies affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals, and is fatal in the vast majority of cases once disease occurs. With prompt treatment following exposure, however, rabies can be prevented.

The Rensselaer County Department of Health reported that a kitten was found in the area of 182 Main Ave. in Wynantskill and advised anyone who came into contact with or taken in a kitten from this area between June 10 and 16 should immediately contact the Rensselaer County Department ofHealth at 270-2655.

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, 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 your local health 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
  • 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.
  • If bitten by a wild or stray animal, wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water and contact your health care provider and local health department immediately. If the animal can be captured safely without further exposure, it can be tested for rabies. If the animal does not have rabies, you will not need preventive treatment. If the animal does have rabies, you can receive treatment to prevent developing rabies.

For more information on rabies prevention, visit the State Health Department website at