By LOIS CLERMONT
---- — PLATTSBURGH — A rabid skunk confirmed in the Village of Keeseville has upped the stakes for Clinton County health officials.
The Health Department is increasing its rabies education and prevention due to the increased threat to the public that this represents.
The skunk, which tested positive for rabies on Oct. 2, entered a pen and attacked three dogs. The dogs fought back and killed the skunk, according to a Health Department release. The owners called police, who advised them to have the skunk tested for rabies.
Two of the dogs attacked by the skunk had a current rabies vaccination and received a booster. A third dog was unvaccinated and was euthanized after the skunk was confirmed rabid.
This is the second rabid animal in the southern part of Clinton County. A raccoon in the Town of Black Brook tested positive in September.
Health Department spokeswoman Laurie Williams told the Press-Republican that rabies is always in the bat population, but the rabid skunk and raccoon signify that terrestrial rabies is in the area, something that hasn’t been seen since 1996.
She said people in this area have a good record of vaccinating their pets, with about 60 to 70 percent of pets being immunized. Rabies-vaccine bait drops and programs that catch, vaccinate and release wild animals also help, she said.
“Everyone is doing a great job, but this shows we need to be more vigilant,” Williams said.
The Health Department is holding its annual round of fall rabies clinics. Because of the rabid skunk, an additional clinic will be held at the Keeseville Fire Station from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10.
A clinic was held Thursday night in Beekmantown. Other clinics will be held 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Morrisonville Fire Station; Thursday, Oct. 11, Ellenburg Fire Station; Tuesday, Oct. 16, Peru Fire Station; Thursday, Oct. 18, Chazy Fire Station; and Tuesday, Oct. 23, Keeseville Fire Station.
The rabies clinics are free for all Clinton County residents. But Essex County residents and pet owners will not be turned away due to the rabies situation in that area, Williams said. Donations are accepted.
The Health Department offers this advice:
▶ Report any sick or strange-acting wildlife: Clinton County, 565-4870; Essex County, 873-3500; and Franklin County, 481-1709.
▶ Vaccinate pets and livestock. State law requires that all dogs, cats and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies by 4 months of age. Vaccination is also recommended for livestock with frequent human contact, such as horses and cows.
▶ Do not feed wildlife or stray animals and discourage them from seeking food near your home. Keep garbage cans tightly covered, and avoid storing any food outside.
▶ Do not approach an unknown animal, either wild or domestic, especially if it is acting in a strange or unusual manner.
▶ Report all animal bites and any contact with bats to the Health Department in your county.
▶ Children should be instructed to tell an adult immediately if they were bitten or scratched by any wild animal.
▶ To prevent the possible spread of the rabies virus, no one, including trappers and nuisance-wildlife rehabilitators, should transport and relocate any wild animals at this time.
▶ If an unvaccinated pet comes in contact with a rabid or suspected rabid animal, the pet must be quarantined for six months. The quarantine must be approved by local public health officials.
▶ Vaccinated pets that come in contact with a rabid or suspected rabies animal must be given a booster rabies vaccination within five days of the contact.
All pets must be at least 3 months old to be vaccinated for their initial rabies vaccination, be revaccinated a year later, then at least every three years after for the rest of their lives.
All animals must be on a leash or in a carrier to be admitted to a rabies clinic.
Email Lois Clermont: firstname.lastname@example.org