Health officials ask local residents to take precautions after bat, skunk reported rabid


WATERTOWN, N.Y. (Aug. 9, 2019) – The New York State Department of Health laboratory has reported to the Jefferson County Public Health Service that a bat and a skunk tested positive for rabies.

The bat was located inside a home in West Carthage. Four people who were sleeping in the home are undergoing preventative rabies treatment. It can be impossible to tell if a bat has bitten someone when he or she has been asleep, due to the small teeth on a bat.

Meanwhile, officials say a skunk located in the city of Watertown tested positive. There are no known exposures.

Rabies is a fatal disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord. It can take several weeks to several months for rabies symptoms to appear. Early treatment after an exposure can prevent rabies in humans, as well as in pets that are up-to-date on vaccination.

Any mammal can get rabies, but it is most often seen in bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Animals do not have to be aggressive or behaving erratically to have rabies. Changes in any animal’s normal behavior can be early signs of rabies.


Rabies in bats

Bats that are on the ground, unable to fly, or active during the day are more likely than others to be rabid. Even so, when any bat is found in a room with a child unattended or with any sleeping or incapacitated person, the bat needs to be tested for rabies.

If you find a bat in your home, do not release it outdoors until you speak to public health officials.

Learn how to catch a bat with this NYS Department of Health video, How to Safely Catch a Bat, at Keep bats out of your home by closing up any holes that might allow bats entry into your living quarters. For more information, visit


Health officials ask residents to take these steps to help prevent the spread of rabies:

  • Teach children to stay away from unfamiliar animals, either wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. Remind them to tell you if they have any unusual contact with an animal.

  • Do not leave pet food outside, as it attracts wildlife to your home.

  • Wash any wound from an animal encounter thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.

  • Be a responsible pet owner by keeping your pet’s vaccinations current. Getting your pet vaccinated by your vet or at a clinic can help stop the spread of rabies from wild animals to humans. For upcoming rabies clinics, see the Jefferson County Public Health Service’s calendar at

  • Monitor your pets when they are outside. If your pet is involved in an altercation with a wild animal, do not get in between them. Do not touch your pet without gloves, as rabies is spread through saliva. Cover your pet with a towel and contact your veterinarian, as your pet may need a booster shot.


(Jefferson County Public Health Service)