CHARLTON: Rabies cases up this spring

Charlton residents are being warned to keep themselves and their pets away from wild animals this spring.

Residents will receive a flier in the coming days advising them that there has been an upswing in rabies cases confirmed already this year in the town. Five raccoons have tested positive for rabies. Other animals occasionally infected include skunks, bats and foxes.

We're very concerned and urge people to keep their pets vaccinated and limit any contact with wild animals, said Supervisor Alan Grattidge.

Daniel Butler, supervisor of the Saratoga County Animal Shelter, said most of the wild animals to be tested are processed through the shelter. Last year in Saratoga County, there were 26 confirmed rabies cases, of which 17 were raccoons. Charlton, however, had just two cases of rabid raccoons in 2006, compared with five already this year.

"As of May 18, throughout Saratoga County, there were 13 confirmed cases of rabies," said Butler. "As a county, we see those numbers fluctuate, but the bottom line is that rabies is a serious public health threat across New York state."

Pets must be kept up to date on their rabies vaccines. If a properly immunized pet comes in contact with an infected animal, it will only need a booster shot. However, if a pet that is not immunized tussles with an infected animal, the pet must be quarantined for six months.

"There is no blood test for rabies, so we need to keep the pets in quarantine to wait for symptoms," said Butler. "There is no in-home quarantine."

Any wild animal suspected of infection is immediately destroyed. Testing follows in the autopsy on brain cells.

The majority of rabies cases are found in the months of March and April, and again in late summer. Butler warns people to never feed or approach wild animals, and to handle their pets with gloves if they suspect infection to avoid any potential contact with their saliva or an open wound.

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