OSSINING, N.Y. -- A week after a rabid cat was found in Ossining, the Westchester County Department of Health is making sure it gets the word out to prevent the spread of the disease.
According to the county health department, no rabies cases have been reported since a rabid gray stray adult cat was picked up by a James Street resident on July 2. The cat, which appeared to be sick, was taken to a local animal shelter, where it was diagnosed with rabies. A rabies alert was then issued.
The resident who found the cat was not bitten or scratched and did not need preventive treatment said Caren Halbfinger the director of public health and communication for the county health department. Halbfinger added that a person needing treatment for rabies in Westchester is extremely rare.
Since the incident, Halbfinger said the county will be sending out mailings and making robocalls to residents in and around James Street so they remain alert.
“Rabies is endemic to Westchester,” she said.
Westchester annually ranks as the one of the top counties for rabies cases in New York State, according to studies by the rabies laboratory at the New York State Department of Health. The county tests about 600 animals each year, with 10 percent testing positive for rabies in some years. Last year, there were about 25 cases in Westchester, second to Erie County, according to the state health department.
Direct contact with wild or stray animals, even baby animals, is inadvisable. Residents are also reminded not to feed wild or stray animals to avoid bringing rabies to their doorstep.
"When you see a stray or wild animal acting sick or strangely, it’s best to avoid contact with the animal and alert local authorities to avoid possible exposure to rabies,” said Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler. “Luckily, this cat was captured without having exposed anyone to rabies.”
New York State law requires dogs, cats and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies and receive regular booster shots. Anyone who believes that they or a pet may have had contact with the rabid cat should contact the Westchester County Department of Health immediately at (914) 813-5000 to assess the need for rabies treatment.