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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 21, 2006

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


SHARP INCREASE IN ANIMAL RABIES CASES ON STATEN ISLAND

Health Department Announces Plan to Provide Free Rabies Vaccination for Cats in Collaboration with Animal Care and Control

35 Animals Have Tested Positive for Rabies on the Island in 2006

NEW YORK CITY - December 21, 2006 - In response to a sharp increase in rabid animals on Staten Island in recent months, the Health Department today announced a series of efforts aimed at preventing the spread of rabies to people and pets.  The Department also urged all Staten Islanders to stay away from wild and stray animals and make sure their pets are vaccinated against rabies. A total of 35 animals have tested positive this year on Staten Island, including 29 raccoons, four cats, and two skunks. In the past three weeks alone, seven animals have tested positive (see map).

Over the past six months, the Health Department has issued multiple veterinary alerts and press releases, and distributed fliers in the Prince's Bay, Huguenot, West Brighton, and Westerleigh neighborhoods, where stray rabid cats were found. The Health Department is taking additional steps to address the growing rabies problem on the Island, including:

  • Launching a six month rabies vaccination campaign for cats in collaboration with the Center for Animal Care and Control.   Staten Islanders will be able to bring their cats to various locations for a free vaccination. Times and locations for the program will be announced after the New Year
  • Intensifying outreach to Staten Islanders through area veterinarians, community organizations,  schools, hospitals, and businesses to educate them about rabies in their community and what they should do to protect themselves and their pets
Animal Rabies Cases in New York City, 2002-2006
Borough

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Bronx

22

6

13

26

6

Brooklyn

1

0

0

1

0

Manhattan

5

0

0

0

1

Queens

0

0

0

1

2

Staten Island

0

0

1

0

35

New York City

28

6

14

28

44

"There has not been a case of human rabies in New York City in over 50 years, but we are concerned about the growing risk to Staten Islanders and their pets," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden.  "The most important thing New Yorkers can do is stay away from stray and wild animals and get their pets vaccinated.  These preventive measures protect us from rabies."

Rabies has only recently reappeared on Staten Island. From 1997 until April 2006, only one rabid raccoon was identified there. Rabies is being transmitted among raccoons and other wild animals on Staten Island, putting people and pets who come in contact with them at risk of infection.  About 10 individuals have been exposed to rabies by stray cats this year on Staten Island; all received treatment to prevent rabies, and none became ill. Rabies affects the nervous system and is almost always fatal if not treated soon after exposure.

How to Protect Yourself, Your Children, and Your Pets
The Health Department is asking all Staten Islanders to take these actions NOW:

  • Get your cat or dog vaccinated for rabies. It's the law.  
    • Check with your vet to see if your pet is up-to-date with vaccinations.
    • Call 311 or visit nyc.gov/rabies for information on free or low-cost rabies shots.
    • Always keep cats indoors (even vaccinated cats) and watch your dog when it is outdoors. Cats that roam could come into contact with rabid animals, get infected, and then expose you.

  • Stay away from wild or stray animals.  Keep children and pets away from them too.
    • Never approach a wild, stray, sick, or injured animal, no matter how helpless it looks. Even stray cats can be dangerous.
    • Raccoons, skunks, bats, and stray cats are more likely than other animals to have rabies.
      Be careful around them-especially if they behave strangely. For example:
      • Too aggressive or too friendly.
      • Trouble standing up.
      • Night animals like raccoons walking around during the day.
    • Call 311 and ask for Animal Care and Control to find to out what to do
    • Keep garbage in tight containers to avoid attracting animals.

  • If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound, consult a doctor, and call 311 or Poison Control to report the bite.
    • First, wash the wound with soap and water IMMEDIATELY.
    • Talk to a doctor right away to see if you need a tetanus shot or a rabies evaluation. If you don't have a regular doctor, go to a hospital emergency room.
    • Call 311 to report the bite. After business hours, call Poison Control at 212-POI-SONS (212-764-7667).

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Important Links:
Download the Animal Rabies in Staten Island Map