Residents warned to be cautious of wild animals after farm dogs kill rabid skunk in Manheim

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Story Updated: Mar 5, 2012

MANHEIM, N.Y. - Health officials are warning residents in Herkimer County to be very cautious around wild animals after farm dogs in the Manheim killed a skunk staggering about in the barnyard.

According to the Herkimer County Health Department, the farmer carefully double-bagged the dead skunk, using gloves and a shovel and a Little Falls veterinarian removed the skunk's brain, which was was sent to the New York State Wadsworth Laboratory, where rabies was confirmed on March 5, 2012.

All of the this farmer's dogs had been vaccinated at a Herkimer County Rabies Clinic, will receive booster shots from their veterinarian, and will be confined for 45 days, health officials said, adding that the farmer and his family had no unprotected contact with the skunk, and will not require medical treatment.

"All residents of Herkimer County should assume that any bat or wild animal, acting strangely, is rabid until proven otherwise," Dr. Gregory O'Keefe of the Health Department said. "Rabies was diagnosed in a fox, heifer cow, skunks, raccoons and bats last year in all regions of Herkimer County. An exposure to rabies can be fatal for a human, a pet, or other domestic animals. Residents should vaccinate their pets and domestic animals. Municipalities should assure that pets are being vaccinated and licensed. Local veterinarians provide Rabies vaccinations year-round."

Herkimer County Public Health will be providing free rabies clinics in 2012 with the first to be held Thursday, March, 15 at the East Herkimer Fire Department on 133 Main Road in East Herkimer, NY. Please check the website and REGISTER for the RABIES clinics.

The complete Rabies Clinics Schedule for 2012 is posted at www.herkimercounty.org. Local veterinarians provide Rabies vaccinations year-round.

Strict laws of New York State hold owners responsible for keeping dogs, cats and ferrets up-to-date in their rabies vaccination, and assign them responsibility for confinement of any unvaccinated pet at the owner's expense. Animals kept or fed by a homeowner are the responsibility of the homeowner. Residents must check and be sure that all their animals are up-to-date with their rabies vaccinations.

Dogs, cats and ferrets 3 months or older must be vaccinated, even if they stay indoors. Every dog and cat needs two rabies vaccinations one year apart, and then every three years needs a re-vaccination. A certificate of vaccination allows licensure of a pet. These cases of animal and bat rabies and exposure risk to humans in Herkimer County heighten the importance of caution in any exposure to wild animals or bats, and for animal vaccination for rabies. An exposure to rabies can be fatal for a human, a pet, or other domestic animals, and vaccination of pets and other animals represents the best preventive measure available.

Health officials ask that residents carefully double-bag a dead or killed bat or wild animal to allow laboratory examination for presence of rabies. Always call Herkimer County Public Health for assistance, advice, and testing of possibly rabid animals, and on safe handling of dead animals. You can call 315-867-1176 at all hours. Regular hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

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