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Health Department offers tips to avoid rabies

June 25, 2014
Health Department offers tips to avoid rabies


        Now that summer is here, lots of Westchester residents are spending more time outdoors, so Westchester County Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, wants residents to know how to protect themselves, their families and their pets.
         “Keep your distance from wild and stray animals, and teach your children to avoid them, too,” said Sherlita Amler, MD, commissioner of health for Westchester County.  “If a bat gets into your home, capture and contain it and call the Health Department immediately. That way, if you, a pet or a family member was exposed, the bat can be tested for rabies, which can help you and your family avoid a series of rabies shots.”
        Watch this video to learn how to safely capture a bat in your home :
What can you do to keep animals away from and out of your home?


•     Always make sure doors and windows are secure and that any small openings that will allow an animal entrance into your home are closed off. This includes screening, chimneys, attic vents, and air conditioners.
•     If a bat finds its way into your house, confine or capture it (without further exposing yourself) for possible rabies testing.  


Never release a bat due to the possibility of pet or human exposure. Instead, call the health department at 914-813-5000 to arrange for testing.
•     Remove any potential outside food sources that could attract animals.
•     Bring pet food and water dishes inside.
•     Do not put on the ground any food for birds such as seed or crumbs.
•     Do not leave food outside unattended.
•     Cover garbage cans securely.


How can you tell if an animal is rabid?
•     Unusual behavior may be the first sign of rabies in an animal.
•     A rabid animal may become either abnormally aggressive or unusually tame.
•     Some rabid animals lose their fear of people and become excited and irritable, or appear passive and lethargic.
•     Staggering and frothing at the mouth are sometimes noted.                                               
        What should you do if bitten or scratched by a wild or stray animal?
•     Wash the bite or scratch with warm, soapy water.
•     Call your doctor or hospital to find out if additional treatment is needed.
•     Report the incident to the health department, 24 hours a day, at (914) 813-5000. If calling after business hours, follow the recorded instructions for reporting public health emergencies.


        What should you do if your pet fights with another animal?
•     Wear gloves when handling your pet during and after an encounter with another animal.
•     Call your veterinarian and the animal control officer in your community to report the incident.
•     If you pet is exposed to a suspect rabid animal, try to keep the animal in sight until the police or a wildlife trapper arrive.
•     If your pet bites or scratches someone, confine your animal and call the Westchester County Health Department immediately at 813-5000. There are a few simple procedures to follow so that the injured person does not need rabies post-exposure treatment. You should also contact the veterinarian for your pet’s rabies vaccine records.
More information about rabies and its prevention can be found on the Health Department’s website at Residents can also like us on Facebook at, follow us on Twitter @wchealthdept or call us at (914) 813-5000.


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