Health Department reports first case of rabies for 2015


By Patsy Nicosia

A time for daffodils, turning over the garden, and maybe... rabies.
The Schoharie County Department of Health has confirmed its first case of rabies for 2015, a raccoon that tested positive March 18 on a farm in Jefferson.
Amy Gildemeister, director of Public Heath for the county, said that unless there's been a likely exposure involving people or pets, her office doesn't test for rabies every time it's suspected.
But they do test the first suspected case of the disease each year and in the case of the Jefferson raccoon, it was positive.
"We had rabies here last year and we know we'll have it here this year, but we have to confirm it," said Dr. Gildemeister.
Rabies is most common in raccoons, skunks, and bats, but can occur in any mammal.
It's typically spread through saliva and once an animal-or person-is showing symptoms, it's almost always fatal.
Dr. Gildemeister said the most obvious signs of rabies include aggression-though not every rabid animal is aggressive and not every aggressive animal is rabid-and hydrophobia, which includes difficulty swallowing, unquenchable thirst, and fear of water.
"The bottom line is if you encounter a suspicious-looking animal, stay away from it," she said.
If, however, the animal has had any contact with a person or pet, the best route is to contact the Health Department at 295-8365 for help in determining whether treatment or a quarantine is necessary.
If the suspicious animal can be safely trapped, it can be tested for rabies; if it must be killed, the head needs to be intact for testing.
Dr. Gildemeister said the best step is always prevention and the Health Department regularly schedules free rabies vaccination clinics for cats and dogs.
Even indoor pets should be vaccinated, she said, because they're often the first ones to discover a bat that's made its way into the house.
More information is available on the Health Department's website or Facebook page; the next rabies vaccination clinic is April 22, 6-8pm at the Summit Town Highway Garage.
Pets must be at least three months of age and properly restrained.