Rabid raccoon attacks youth hunter

MAYVILLE — The Environmental Health Unit of the Chautauqua County Department of Health & Humans Services received word today that the first rabid animal of 2019 has been confirmed in the county. A youth turkey hunter was attacked, on Sunday, April 21 while hunting turkey near Open Meadows Road in the Town of North Harmony. Fortunately the youth was wearing a heavy jacket and was accompanied by his father. The raccoon latched onto his jacket biting through the jacket and inflicting a bite. This would have been a much different story if he was wearing a light weight shirt or hunting alone. The youth was able to fling the raccoon clear allowing his father time to shoot the raccoon.

“This incident should serve as a reminder to residents, particularly outdoor enthusiasts (hikers, hunters, etc.), that animal rabies is a serious public health concern and continues to be present in Chautauqua County,” said Mark Stow, County Director of Environmental Health Services. “Raccoons are, by far, the animal most likely to be rabid in the state.”

The very real and scary fact is that roughly one in ten animals infected by the rabies virus will become aggressive and attack with no provocation. Other rabid animals may appear tame or docile, and well-meaning animal lovers may be tempted to catch and help the animals. As we approach the season when wild animals are having babies, people may hear orphaned animals crying for their mother and think they need to care for the animals. However, when people take wild or feral animals home they create a real danger for their family, particularly children. It is illegal to relocate/harbor wild animals and it’s also very dangerous, especially when children are allowed to handle/play with the animals. Sometimes entire families need to be treated for rabies exposure after an animal has been brought home.

Rabies is nearly always a fatal disease when exposure is missed and untreated. Preventing rabies in pets is your first line of defense.

Pet owners should be aware that New York State law requires all dogs, cats, and domesticated ferrets be vaccinated against rabies at 4 months of age. The vaccination requirement aims to protect, not only pets and animals from the fatal rabies virus but also, pet owners who may be exposed through their pets. Free rabies vaccination clinics are held at various locations throughout the county during the year.

The next free rabies clinic is Saturday, May 4, 1-3 p.m. at the town of Poland Highway Barn 533 Grubb Hill Rd., Kennedy. The initial rabies vaccination is valid for one year and subsequent booster vaccinations are valid for three years. If an unvaccinated pet or one that is overdue on its vaccination comes in contact with a rabid or suspected rabid animal, the pet must either be euthanized or strictly quarantined for six months.

Vaccinated animals that come in contact with wild animals can simply be given booster vaccinations, as long as they are given within five days of exposure.

Routine inquiries and requests for information can be obtained by calling 716-753-4481 during business hours. After normal business hours, residents with urgent inquiries can call the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office at 716-753-4232. Visit cdc.gov and health.ny.gov for general information.