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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 051-06
Thursday, June 22, 2006

CONTACT: (212) 788-5290; 788-3058 (After Hours)
Andrew Tucker (atucker@health.nyc.gov)
Sara Markt (smarkt@health.nyc.gov)


RABID KITTENS FOUND IN PRINCE’S BAY SECTION OF STATEN ISLAND

Health Department Asks Anyone who had Contact with these Kittens to Seek Medical Care and Call 311

NEW YORK CITY – June 22, 2006 – A kitten in the Prince’s Bay section of Staten Island has tested positive for rabies, the New York City Department of Health Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) reported today. Two other kittens of the same litter may have also been infected. The three kittens were found, along with a blanket and a toy, in a diaper box in a vacant lot near Seguine Avenue between Direnzo Court and Hanover Avenue in the Prince’s Bay section of Staten Island on June 11; only one kitten has been confirmed positive for rabies. The second kitten could not be tested and the third kitten is currently being tested for rabies.

Two of the kittens were taken by caretakers to New Jersey. DOHMH is working with New Jersey health officials to determine who had contact with these three kittens and ensuring they receive treatment to prevent rabies infection. About a dozen individuals are known to have been exposed (including three New Jersey residents) and are now being treated to prevent rabies.

DOHMH is trying to identify anyone else who had contact with these kittens after Monday, June 5 to determine if they could have been exposed to rabies and to ensure that they get rabies shots if they were exposed. Such persons should seek medical care and call 311. City doctors and veterinarians are also being alerted in order to prevent transmission of rabies to humans or their pets; there has not been a case of human rabies in New York City for more than 50 years.

Information about Rabies

DOHMH reminds New Yorkers to avoid contact with wild animals and to vaccinate their pets against rabies. Rabies is most often transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal or when saliva of the infected animal comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membrane (such as nose or mouth). Simple contact with a wild animal will not result in rabies.

Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system. If preventive treatment is necessary – and is obtained promptly following exposure to a rabid animal – most cases of rabies in humans can be prevented. Treatment requires prompt washing of the bite site with soap and lots of water, followed by a series of shots (rabies vaccine) to prevent rabies. Untreated rabies infection is almost always fatal.

Four raccoons on Staten Island also tested positive for rabies in 2006 indicating that rabies is being transmitted among wild animals in Staten Island (see map). Rabies has occurred previously on Staten Island and other parts of New York City, but has recently reappeared on the Island. From 1997 until last month, only one rabid raccoon had been identified on Staten Island. From 1992 to 1997, 62 rabid raccoons were found on the Island. In recent years, rabid raccoons have been captured in the Bronx and Queens, as well as areas surrounding the City. Also, bats with rabies are occasionally identified in all five boroughs of New York City.

To protect yourself against rabies:

  • Do not touch or feed wild animals, stray dogs or cats, or bats.
  • Keep garbage in tightly sealed containers.
  • Stay away from any animal that is behaving aggressively or a wild animal that appears ill or is acting unusually friendly. Call 311 to report animals that are displaying these or other unusual behaviors. Always call 911 in emergency situations.
  • If a bat is found indoors and may have had contact with someone, do not release it. Call 311 to determine if the animal should be picked up for rabies testing. Information on how to safely capture a bat is available online through the New York State Department of Health at http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/zoonoses/batidx.htm.

To protect your pet against rabies:

  • Make sure your dog or cat is up to date on its rabies vaccinations.
  • Do not leave your pets outdoors unattended.
  • If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact your veterinarian.
  • Feed pets indoors.

If you are bitten by an animal:

  • Immediately wash the wound with lots of soap and water.
  • Seek medical care from your health care provider or go to the emergency room.
  • Call 311 to report the animal bite, and to determine if the animal should be picked up for rabies testing.
  • If the animal is someone’s pet, get the owner’s name, address, and telephone number.

For more information on rabies, please visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cd/cdrab.shtml.

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