Counties across Northern New York have reported cases of rabies this summer, but that does not necessarily mean a large increase of the disease.
St. Lawrence County has had two rabies cases, both in raccoons. Jefferson County has had three, also all in raccoons. In Lewis County, rabies has been confirmed in one skunk and one raccoon.
While the numbers so far seem to average cases in other years, the presence of the disease predominantly in raccoons may indicate a particular rise in that population.
Raccoon rabies kind of cycles, said James F. Farquhar, state Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife manager. In the early 1990s, it really knocked them back. It happens in times of high raccoon populations.
Rabies bait drops, along with hand placement of bait in more heavily populated areas, is scheduled for August in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties.
In Jefferson County, cases have appeared in the towns of Worth, Adams and Watertown. In two cases, there was human contact, so some people are receiving shots so they do not contract the disease, said Jeffrey M. Leiendecker, rabies program coordinator.
The county had six rabies cases in 2011, five in 2010 and three in 2009.
Its hard to say its an uptick or a downtick, he said.
Lewis County typically sees five to 10 cases of rabies annually, said Marcia M. Ashline, a supervising public health nurse.
St. Lawrence County had four cases last year, even though it submitted 58 animals for testing.
Were off to a slow start, Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said. Theres nothing to indicate a massive amount of rabies.
However, public health officials are cautioning the public to be aware rabies is on the march and to avoid wildlife when possible.
Dont pick up baby animals, Ms. Hathaway said.
Pet owners should make sure the vaccinations of their animals are up to date and make their property less attractive to wildlife by doing such things as closing up buildings and not leaving dog and cat food outside, particularly at night.
Its basic common sense, Mr. Leiendecker said.
Jefferson County has a link on its website to a YouTube video that shows how to safely catch a bat in a home using a container and a piece of cardboard so that it can be tested.
The video is at http://co.jefferson.ny.us/index.aspx?page=578