By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — With the number of positive rabies cases on the rise in Clinton County, a clinic will be held at Peru Fire Station on Tuesday, June 25.
In 2012, the Clinton County Health Department confirmed seven total cases of rabid animals: one bat, two raccoons and four skunks.
All the positive cases were recorded after Aug. 20.
This year, five positive cases have already been confirmed, including a rabid gray fox in the Town of AuSable that attacked and bit a resident. The person had to get shots to protect against the deadly rabies virus.
“Gray foxes are generally secretive animals; you rarely ever see them,” said Rita Mitchell, principal sanitarian for the Clinton County Health Department. “But they are one animal that’s known to be very aggressive when they get rabies.”
Residents immediately called the State Department of Environmental Conservation, who sent an officer to the property and shot the animal. Within two days, the state lab in Albany confirmed the fox had rabies.
The fox, skunk and raccoons all tested positive for the raccoon strain of the rabies virus. Prevalent across the Northeast over the past two decades, the strain is among those that are carried by a particular species but can also spread to other animals.
For instance, a fox strain of the rabies virus impacted the region in the early 1990s and took a heavy toll on local fox populations, but other mammals also contracted it.
Raccoons have been the center of attention during this more recent activity.
“There’s a significant raccoon rabies outbreak pretty much throughout the state,” Mitchell said. “It wasn’t surprising to see it make its way into Clinton County.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services has been conducting a field study over the past several years to find the best way to vaccinate raccoons and other animals by dropping vaccine-laced baits into the wild.
“They’re trying to determine the best time of year, the best method of delivery, the best density per square kilometer,” Mitchell explained. “They’re still trying to work out the best options for doing this (bait drop).”
Essex and Franklin counties have completed their spring rabies clinics but will be scheduling more in the fall.
“We vaccinated a total of 581 animals from January through May, including 406 animals vaccinated in our spring clinics,” said Susan Allott, director of preventive services for the Essex County Health Department.
Essex County has had four cases of rabies this year: two skunks and two raccoons, she added. The positive cases were in Chesterfield, Willsboro and Ticonderoga.
“We are only submitting specimens from rabies-vector species (for testing) with saliva contact with humans or saliva contact with an unvaccinated domestic animal,” Allot said.
FRANKLIN OK SO FAR
Franklin County has not had a positive rabies case since 2010, when a rabid bat turned up, said Kathleen Strack, public-health director for the county.
“We are currently working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and the St. Lawrence Health Department on an enhanced (rabies) surveillance north of Route 11,” she said.
“We are paying special attention to any rabies-vector species that display any abnormal behavior.”
Thus far, 13 raccoons have been sent in for testing, but all tested negative.
“Rabies is in Clinton County and in St. Lawrence County,” she said. “We are right in the middle and want to stay pro-active.”
HOW TO TRAP A BAT
Bats are also of concern for spreading rabies and should be taken seriously when encountered indoors, Mitchell noted.
“We always try to remind people about bats. If you find a bat in the home, especially if someone has been sleeping in the room, you should call us.”
Residents should also attempt to safely capture any bat inside the home. Officials recommend using leather work gloves, a small box or coffee can, a piece of cardboard and tape.
When the bat lands on a flat surface, the resident should approach the animal slowly, place the box over it, slide the cardboard under the container to trap the animal and then seal it shut with the tape.
Small holes punched into the box will allow the bat to breathe until it reaches the laboratory for testing.
Officials also recommend following proper procedures to prevent bats from getting into homes. They do not advise trying to exterminate the animals within the residence.
Email Jeff Meyers:email@example.com
RABIES CLINIC \
The Clinton County Health Department will hold a rabies clinic for dogs, cats and ferrets from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, at Peru Fire Station.
Pets must be at least 3 months old, and owners should bring vaccination records.
All pets must be on a leash or in a carrier to be admitted.
The clinic is free, but donations will be accepted. Essex and Franklin counties have completed their spring vaccination clinics.
All three counties will announce fall clinics once they are scheduled.