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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 080-09
Monday, December 7, 2009

MEDIA CONTACT: (212) 788-5290
Jessica Scaperotti/Celina De Leon: Pressoffice@health.nyc.gov


Health Department Cautions New Yorkers to Avoid Wild Animals and Vaccinate Pets against Rabies

Three rabid raccoons identified in Central Park in recent months

December 7, 2009 – With the identification of three raccoons with rabies in Manhattan’s Central Park in recent months – two during the past week – the Health Department is cautioning New Yorkers to stay away from raccoons, skunks, bats, stray dogs and cats and other wild animals that can carry rabies. The recent cluster of findings suggests that rabies is being transmitted among raccoons in the park. The Health Department is increasing surveillance efforts to determine the extent of the problem.

Raccoons are the most commonly reported rabid animal in New York City. Rabid raccoons are a relatively common occurrence in the Bronx, and many were found in Staten Island in 2006 and 2007. In Queens and Manhattan, rabid raccoons have historically been rare, and rabid raccoons have never been seen in Brooklyn. Bats with rabies have also been found in all five boroughs. So far this year, 20 rabid animals have been identified in New York City – 14 raccoons from the Bronx, 4 raccoons from Manhattan, 1 raccoon from Queens and 1 bat from Staten Island.  

People and unvaccinated animals can get rabies, most often from a bite by an infected animal. Infection leads to a severe brain disease that causes death unless the person is treated promptly. Despite the risk, there has not been a human case of rabies in New York City since 1953. To reduce the risk of rabies, New Yorkers should avoid all wild animals, as well as any animal that seems sick, disoriented or unusually placid or aggressive. Report such animals by calling 311. Animals that have attacked or may attack should be reported to 911. Any bite or scratch from a raccoon, or other animal capable of transmitting rabies, requires medical attention.

Number of Rabid Animals Identified in New York City, 2003-2009*

Borough

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009*

Bronx

6

13

26

6

14

13

14

Brooklyn

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

Manhattan

0

0

0

1

0

0

4

Queens

0

0

1

2

1

1

1

Staten Island

0

1

0

35

29

4

1

                        * January 1 through December 3, 2009

To protect yourself against rabies:

  • Do not touch or feed wild animals, or stray dogs or cats.
  • 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 or your local police precinct to report the animal.

To protect your pet against rabies:

  • Make sure your dog or cat is up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.
  • Keep your dog leashed while outdoors unless at a specified off-leash area or park.
  • Do not leave your pets outdoors unattended.
  • Do not try to separate animals that are fighting.
  • If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact your veterinarian, and report the incident to 311.
  • Feed pets indoors.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal:

  • Immediately wash the wound with lots of soap and water.
  • Seek medical care from your health care provider.
  • If the animal is un-owned and can be captured, call 311.
  • If the animal is a pet, get the owner’s name, address and telephone number to give to the Health Department so they can ensure the animal is not rabid.
  • Call the Animal Bite Unit (212-676-2483) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week to report the bite. You can call 212-POISONS (764-7667) during after hours and on weekends. You can also file a report online at www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/vet/vetegp.shtml.
  • For information about medical follow-up, call 311 or your medical provider.

For more information about rabies in New York City, visit www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/vet/vet5.shtml.

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