July 22, 2009

NYC warns against rabies in Manhattan

Six rabid raccoons have been identified in New York City this year, the city health department said.

Four of the raccoons were found in the Bronx, one in Manhattan near Inwood Hill Park, and one in Queens in Long Island City. Raccoons are the most commonly reported rabid animals in New York City, but city health officials warn that skunks, bats, stray dogs and cats and other wild animals can also carry rabies.

Rabid raccoons are a relatively common occurrence in Staten Island and the Bronx, but rare in Queens and Manhattan. Bats with rabies have also been found in all five boroughs, health officials said.

People and unvaccinated animals can get rabies, most often through a bite from an infected animal. Infection leads to a severe brain disease that causes death unless the person is treated promptly after being bitten. 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, health officials said.

In 2008, 19 animals tested positive for rabies in New York City including 13 from the Bronx -- four raccoons, seven skunks, one bat and one cat -- and four from Staten Island -- all raccoons -- as well as a bat from Brooklyn and a raccoon from Queens.