State, Ulster County Health Departments Seek Campers Who May Have Been Exposed to Rabid Cat
Albany, June 21 -- Public health officials from Ulster County and New York State are trying to track down people who may have been exposed to a rabid cat last weekend at the KOA Hudson Valley Kampground in Plattekill, Ulster County.
Sixty campsites were filled over the June 14-16 weekend, and although health officials have contacted people who stayed at more than one-third of the campsites, they are still seeking campers who occupied nearly 40 other campsites at the KOA Hudson Valley Kampground.
Seven people were confirmed to be bitten or scratched on June 16 by a gray-striped cat that had been roaming the campground. The cat was confirmed to have rabies, and the campers are being treated with rabies vaccine. But health officials caution that anyone else who was bitten or scratched by this cat will need post-exposure treatment.
The KOA Hudson Valley Kampground has been working cooperatively with the Ulster County Health Department and the State Health Department to identify and track down people who were camping there over Father's Day weekend. Campers were from various counties in New York State, from other states, and from Europe, Canada and South America. Health officials throughout New York State and across the nation have been alerted so they can aid in the search for campers.
Ulster County health officials have made telephone calls and sent letters to the homes of all campers, but many of them have not returned home yet. Anyone who was at the campground on those dates and has not been contacted by health officials should call the Ulster County Health Department (914-338-8447 days and 914- 334-2415 evenings) or the State Health Department (518-474-3186 days and 1-866-881-2809 evenings).
If left untreated, rabies is fatal. The disease is caused by a virus in the saliva and nervous tissue of a rabid animal, and contact with the animal exposes people and pets to rabies if the rabid animal breaks the skin through a scratch or bite. Rabies can also be spread if the rabid animal's saliva enters an open cut or mucous membrane (nose, mouth, or eyes). But prompt medical treatment can prevent the rabies virus from spreading.
Although rabies is most often seen among wild mammals such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes, family pets and livestock can get rabies if they are not vaccinated against the disease. Rarely is rabies found in rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, rats. mice, guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters. The disease has never been found in birds, snakes, fish, turtles, lizards and insects.
There were 2,764 New Yorkers who received post-exposure treatment for rabies in 1994, and partial data for 1995 shows more than 2,000 treatments. Health officials recommend these common-sense steps to avoid exposure to rabies:
- Avoid contact with any wild animal. Wild animals that wander into residential areas in daylight may be rabid.
- Avoid contact with any stray animals, especially cats.
- Avoid contact with the saliva of any animal, even a pet, that may be rabid or that may have been exposed to rabies.
- Do not handle pets with bare hands for several hours after any involvement with a suspected rabid wild animals. Keep a pair of thick gloves handy for these situations.
- Although a bite from a rabid animal is the most common way for rabies to be transmitted, seek medical advice, after any contact with an animal that may be rabid.
- Make sure all pets are vaccinated and that their shots are up to date.
- Do not make your property attractive to wildlife by leaving garbage in unsecured containers; do not feed pets outside.
- If possible rabies exposure has occurred, wash the wound, notify your local public health agency as soon as possible and follow medical advice concerning post-exposure treatment.
6/21/96-78 OPAContact: Claudia Hutton, Director, Public Affairs (518) 474-7354
New York State Department of Health Posted 7/1/96