A zoonotic disease is any disease that can be passed between animals and people. Rabies is perhaps the most well-known zoonotic disease, but there are many others. It is estimated 60% of infectious diseases are zoonotic. There are many great online resources to learn more about zoonotic disease and its prevention, including:
Rabies is most often seen among wild animals such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes, but any mammal can be infected with rabies. Pets and livestock can get rabies if they are not vaccinated to protect them against infection. Among domestic animals, cats are most frequently diagnosed with rabies in New York State.
Some animals almost never get rabies. These include rabbits and small rodents such as squirrels, chipmunks, rats, mice, guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters. It is possible for these animals to get rabies, but only in rare circumstances, such as if they are attacked but not killed by a rabid animal.
Reptiles (such as lizards and snakes), amphibians (like frogs), birds, fish and insects do not get or carry rabies.
Report all animal bites, even if they seem minor. In Dutchess County, call (845) 486-3404. Outside of Dutchess County, please visit the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) website.
Keep track of the animal that exposed you and report this information to Dutchess County so the animal can be captured safely. In the case of a bat, you may be able to safely capture it yourself and bring it to the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community, or your local health department if outside of Dutchess. The specimen will then be transferred to NYS Department of Health for rabies testing.
To learn how to capture a bat safely, view a short video (1 minute 22 seconds).
Healthy dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock that have bitten or otherwise caused a potential human exposure to rabies will be confined under the direction of the Department and observed for ten days following the exposure. If the animal remains healthy during this period, the animal did not transmit rabies at the time of the bite.
Other types of animals that cause a potential human exposure must be tested for rabies under the direction of the Department. If an animal cannot be observed or tested for rabies, treatment may be necessary for the people exposed. We will assist you and your physician to determine whether treatment is necessary.
Treatment after rabies exposure consists of a dose of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) administered as soon as possible after exposure, plus 4 doses of rabies vaccine given over two weeks. If there is a wound, the full dose of HRIG should go into the wound, if possible. The first vaccine dose is given at the same time, with the remaining injections given on days 3, 7 and 14 following the initial injection. People who have weakened immune systems may require a fifth dose of vaccine, as determined by their doctor.