Rabies vaccine in short supply nationwide

Health officials warned Capital Region residents today to avoid the risk of rabies while the nati

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Health officials warned Capital Region residents today to avoid the risk of rabies while the nation copes with a shortage of the rabies vaccine.

How to catch a bat

The state Health Department was notified that there is an extremely low supply of Rab Avert available for use in the U.S. markets. In a Wednesday memo to hospitals and local health departments obtained by The Daily Gazette, the state agency said the drug company Novartis announced Monday it was “restricting the use of Rab Avert, the human rabies vaccine, only to emergency situations involving human rabies.”

But at a press conference this morning at the state laboratories, no mention was made of the shortage of one type of the rabies vaccine by Health Commissioner Richard R. Daines, who demonstrated to reporters how to catch a bat inside a home. Daines was advocating the capture and testing of bats found in their home that may have come in contact with a human or pet to avoid the need for unnecessary rabies treatment.

Health Department officials could not be reached this afternoon to comment on the memo, which said it’s unclear how long RabAvert will be in such limited supply.

New York state has seen a steady increase in the number of human rabies treatments following bat exposure.

“Many of these treatments could have been avoided had the bat been captured and tested negative for rabies,” Daines said.

The natural tendency is to try to remove a bat from a home once it’s discovered by opening a window or door, but it’s better to capture the bat so it can be tested, he said.

Each year, more than 1,400 New Yorkers undergo rabies treatment because the bat they were exposed to was not caught for testing. Only about 3 percent of bats, or one in 33, tested in New York state have rabies, he said.

Rabid bats were responsible for 38 of 41 human rabies cases in the nation since 1990. Three human rabies cases, all fatal, have been diagnosed in New York state since 1993.

Categories: Schenectady County

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