Montgomery County

Bats, other critters spike Montgomery County rabies prevention costs

Fear of rabies will likely cost the Montgomery County Public Health Department $15,000 more than usu

Fear of rabies will likely cost the Montgomery County Public Health Department $15,000 more than usual this year.

“We’re just treating a lot more people,” said Supervising Public Health Nurse Cindy Christman.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved transfer of funds from other Public Health Department programs to post-exposure rabies treatments. Treatments consist of a series of five or six shots over a period of almost a month.

Christman could not release how many county residents have received treatment so far this year, but 14 went through the cycle of shots in 2011, which she said is significantly less than the 2012 numbers.

When the patient doesn’t have insurance or can’t pay for the treatment, the county steps in, which is why they needed the extra $15,000 this year.

“We only budgeted as much as we spent last year,” she said. But the increase in treatment numbers doesn’t necessarily reflect an increase in infection rates.

Last year, Christman said, 22 animals from the county were tested. Only three actually had rabies.

According to the New York State Department of Health Rabies Lab Report, from January through June of this year only 11 of Montgomery County’s animals were tested, none of which were infected.

In terms of confirmed human infection, state Department of Health Spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said while preventive treatment is common, no one has been infected in New York state so far this year and only one case was reported last year.

According to Christman, this year’s higher rabies treatment bill has more to do with public education than the actual disease. “When people come in contact with an animal that could have rabies,” she said, “they need to capture the animal and bring it in to be tested.”

If the animal isn’t infected, the bitten individual won’t have to be treated, but if the animal gets away, the person can’t take the chance of infection.

“Untreated rabies is pretty much always fatal,” Christman said, “So we tend to err on the side of caution.”

Christman theorizes the increased treatment numbers could have something to do with the warm summer.

“When it gets hot outside,” she said, “bats look for a cool place to hang out, which brings them into houses and closer to people.” She said many of the rabies-related calls the public health department fielded this summer were about bats.

Their teeth are small enough not to wake a sleeping person, so it’s hard to confirm a bite.

“With any animal bite, try to capture the animal and call us right away,” she said.

For more information on rabies prevention, visit

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