ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County Public Health officials are eager for the rabies vaccine aerial bait drop that starts this week.
The spread of rabies has become a problem in the county, and anything that could reduce or slow it down would be beneficial, said Kathy Daggett of the County Public Health Department.
“Essex County has had, in the last two years, a large number of positive rabid animals. Ten tested positive this year, eight last year.”
She said a case in Wilmington is pending; the confirmed cases were in Ticonderoga, Willsboro, Jay, Crown Point, Chesterfield and Elizabethtown.
“What people can do, basically, is to stay away from rabid animals. Tell your kids don’t touch stray animals, wild animals.”
Daggett said that in one case, kids touched a family of baby raccoons, and the animals all had to be euthanized to be tested for rabies, which they didn’t have.
Public Health holds several rabies vaccination clinics for dogs and cats each year, she said, for a $5 fee.
“Protect your pets. Your pets need to be vaccinated.”
The aerial bait drops by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services were starting in southern Clinton and northern Essex counties, she said, with Essex, Chesterfield and Willsboro first for Essex County.
“They (USDA) are trying to hold back the spread of rabies. It’s south of us. We know it’s here. It’s throughout the animal population.”
The bait drop this year is part of a clinical trial of a new oral vaccine, she said.
“They have done a pre-test where they have gone into some towns along the lake, trapped animals and tested their blood to see if they were immune to rabies, and then they’re dropping the bait and vaccinating the animals, and then they will do another test after the bait drop to see if the animals picked up the bait and are now vaccinated.”
Rabies is an issue in Randy Douglas’s Town of Jay, since a raccoon tested positive for the virus earlier this year.
“I have some people very worried in my town about rabies,” said Douglas, who chairs the Essex County Board of Supervisors. “Since the raccoon, skunks are acting strangely.”
He said people are also concerned about feral cats getting the virus.
“Raccoons are out in the daytime walking around in people’s front yards; skunks the same,” Douglas said. “We need to have some idea how widespread it (rabies) is in Essex County.”
Daggett said Jay has had rabid-animal problems before.
“If an animal is just acting funny in someone’s yard, we want people to leave it alone,” she said. “We have had people out with guns, and we don’t want that.”
Douglas suggested contracting for a countywide animal-control officer who could handle rabies complaints.
“If this keeps spreading, I want the (U.S.) Department of Agriculture to realize that we have a problem here,” he said. “I had more skunks (reported) than you’ve seen all summer long.”
Supervisor Charles Harrington (R-Crown Point) said more schools need to start holding assemblies to educate students about rabid animals.
Visit www.co.essex.ny.us/publichealth.org or www.clintonhealth.org for more information on rabies.
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