The first confirmed positive animal rabies report in the county this year is a raccoon that was collected in Oswegatchie Monday.
“The raccoon was acting sickly and wobbly, and became aggressive,” said county Public Health Department Communicable Disease Coordinator Kindra E. Cousineau.
The raccoon was sent to the New York State lab where the disease was confirmed on Wednesday.
No human cases of rabies have been reported.
The Public Health Department reminds residents that rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It kills almost any mammal or human that contracts it. Rabies can occur at any time during the year but with the warmer weather wildlife activity increases and the risk of exposure to rabies can also increase.
To protect themselves, people should be aware of how rabies can spread to humans.
It's not unusual at this time of year to see juvenile raccoons or fox playing or a young robin crouched on the lawn or a young rabbit in the flower garden, all apparently motherless. Another frequent occurrence is to find a fawn lying by itself. Often, people who mean well step in to help. This is when problems arise, when we assume that young wildlife we find alone are abandoned, helpless and need saving. In nearly all cases, this is a mistake.
These well meant acts of kindness tend to have the opposite result. Most people quickly find they don’t really know how to care for young wildlife, and many of the animals that are “rescued” soon die despite their best efforts.
Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said, “Don’t consider young wildlife as possible pets. This is illegal and is bad for the animal.” Furthermore wild animals don’t make good pets; they’re not well suited for life in captivity and they may carry diseases such as rabies that can be given to people. Wildlife -- especially animals like raccoons, skunks or bats -- are the most common carriers of the rabies virus. “Resist the temptation to take them out of the wild.”
Hathaway also reminds pet owners to keep animals’ vaccinations against rabies up to date and to avoid contact with stray dogs, cats, or wildlife.
These steps are recommended to protect against rabies infection:
• Do not feed wild animals. You may be putting your family in danger.
• Warn your children to stay away from wild or stray animals.
• Do not keep wildlife as pets. It is against the law.
• Do not trap and transport wild animals to a new location. It’s illegal and you could be spreading diseases.
• Take measures to discourage wild animals from taking up residence in your home or on your property. For example, cover up potential entrances, such as uncapped chimneys, loose shingles, and openings in attics, roofs and eaves. You may want to contact a professional for advice.
Questions about rabies or possible exposures may be called to the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department at 386-2325.