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In what the Department of Health is indicating as a rare occurrence, two rabid raccoons and a cat infected with the disease were recently found on City Island.
According to an advisory recently released by the city agency, the first rabid raccoon was found on Rochelle Street and City Island Avenue on May 5, with a second found at the same location on May 29. The rabid kitten was found at the corner of Minnieford Avenue and Cross Street on July 15.
DOH officials say that it is the first time any rabid animals have been found on City Island.
While there hasn’t been a human rabies infection in the city in over 50 years, the DOH is nevertheless urging all nearby residents to be on the lookout and take proper precautions.
“Throughout the U.S., we only see one to three cases of rabies in humans per year,” said Dr. Sally Slavinski of the DOH, an expert. “Through all of the programs put in place for residents in NYC, we are able to limit the transmission of cases of rabies from ‘reservoir’ species that are the primary carriers of the virus such as raccoons and bats to domestic pets and humans.”
Slavinski said dogs and cats are especially at risk because they tend to be outside and in contact with the wild.
“All pets should be vaccinated for rabies,” Slavinski noted. “Not all of our domestic pets are vaccinated, and as we saw with the stray cat, and because our animals live in close proximity to us, it puts people at risk as well.”
Slavinski added that rabies is treatable in humans if they seek medical attention when they are first exposed to the virus, and that Post Exposure Prophylaxis treatment prevents fatalities to those who are exposed. Worldwide, 50,000 people die each year due to rabies infection, according to Slavinski.
“The City Island Chamber of Commerce has notified the restaurants on the island about what they can do to prevent animals from getting into their waste products,” said Paul Klein, vice-president of the City Island Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a serious issue in the area, particularly with pets and children being outside in the summer,” added Michael Digonis, of Rochelle Street. “A friend on a neighboring block even had the wiring in the cabin of his boat, which was moored off shore near Horton Street, destroyed by raccoons which got on board.”
DOH has issued a number of tips to keep both residents and their pets safe, suggesting that residents never approach a wild, stray, sick or injured animal no matter how helpless it looks.
Raccoons, skunks, and bats are more likely than any other animals to have rabies. Signs include overly aggressive or overly friendly animals; trouble standing up; and nocturnal animals, like raccoons, seen active during the day.
The DOH also advises homeowners to keep garbage in tight containers to avoid attracting animals, and to immediately report to 311 any animals acting in an abnormal way. When calling 311, ask for Animal Care and Control for advice.
Despite all the attention, some are skeptical about the city’s concern over rabid animals.
“I called 311 about a skunk I saw in the daytime in my backyard which might have been rabid,” Klein noted. “Animal Care and Control said they only deal with dogs and cats.”
Despite doubts, DOH is insisting that word be spread.
“If people don’t take precautions and pets aren’t vaccinated,” said Celina Deleon, a DOH spokeswoman, “medical issues could arise.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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