The Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) was notified today by the New York State Department of Health that three bats collected on June 12 and June 15 in the Town of Islip have tested positive for the rabies virus. The bats were collected in Sayville, Islip Terrace and Islip.
“We estimate that in any given year, three to six percent of the local bat population typically test positive for rabies; given that we have had three test positive in close proximity within days is reason for enhanced caution,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of Health Services.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. It is most often seen among wild animals such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes, but any mammal can be infected with rabies. Pets and livestock can get rabies if they are not vaccinated to protect them against infection.
New York State and Suffolk County laws require that all dogs, cats and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies. Vaccinating pets not only provides protection for the animals but also acts as a barrier to keep the rabies virus from spreading between wild animals and people.
The Suffolk County Department of Health Services recommends the following precautions to protect pets and your family from possible exposure to rabies:
· Do not feed, touch or approach wild animals, or stray dogs or cats.
· Be sure your pet dogs, cats and ferrets as well as horses and other livestock animals are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Pets too young to be vaccinated should be kept indoors and allowed outside only under direct observation.
· Keep family pets indoors at night. Do not leave them outside unattended or let them roam free.
· Do not attract wild animals to your home or yard. Keep your property free of stored bird seed or foods that may attract wild animals. Feed pets indoors. Tightly cover or put away garbage cans. Board up any openings to your attic, basement, porch or garage. Cap your chimney with screens.
· Do not transport or relocate any wild animals.
· Teach children not to touch any animal they do not know and to tell an adult immediately if they are bitten by any animal.
To keep bats from getting into buildings:
· Do not leave unscreened doors open to the outside.
· Do not leave unscreened windows open to the outside.
· Make sure windows have screens, chimneys are capped, and electrical and plumbing openings are plugged.
· Seal up all openings larger than 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch square into the attic, basement, walls, or occupied areas of the house.
· Use materials such as expanding spray-on foam, caulk, wire mesh, wood that fits tightly, steel wool (around pipes that enter buildings), or polypropylene bird netting, to seal or cover gaps and holes.
If a bat is found in your home, avoid contact with it, attempt to contain the animal and contact the Department of Health Services immediately. If possible, try to contain the animal so that it can be tested.
All animal bites or contact with wild animals should be reported by calling (631) 854-0333 weekdays, 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
After hours, animal bites or contact with wild animals should be reported by calling (631) 852-4820.
For more information on rabies, visit the New York State Department of Health website at http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/rabies/rabies.htm, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies/.