Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system  and ultimately causes death.

The virus is found in

  • saliva,
  • mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth) &
  • nervous tissue (brain tissue, spinal cord, cerebrospinal fluid) of infected mammals.

Animals That Get Rabies

Only mammals (including people) can get rabies.

Rabies most often occurs in wild animals including raccoons, fox, coyotes, skunk, porcupines, groundhogs and bats.

Livestock – cattle, horses, goat, sheep, swine, etc. can get rabies.

Small rodents (such as mice, squirrels, chipmunks and rats) and rabbits rarely get rabies.

Reptiles and amphibians don’t get rabies.

Our Required Activities

As a local health department we are responsible for rabies surveillance, prevention and control.  Our activities include:

  • Investigating all potential exposures of people to rabies;
  • Investigating all potential exposures of domestic animals to rabies;
  • Ensuring, as appropriate, human rabies post exposures prophylaxis (PEP) for humans;
  • Providing rabies education and outreach; and
  • Completing all rabies reporting requirements.

Rabies Vaccination Law

New York State rabies law requires all pets (dogs, cats, ferrets) to be vaccinated against rabies by 4 months of age. This can be done  through a  veterinarian or through Essex County Public Health Rabies Clinics—ongoing & offered throughout Essex County.

Pet Owner Fact Sheet

Rabies Vaccination Clinics for Pets

ECHD provides free rabies vaccine for all pet dogs, cats and ferrets through clinics throughout Essex County.  Donations of $5 per pet is appreciated.  All pets must be controlled by an adult and on a leash or in a carrier.  If your pet has been vaccinated previously, bring the rabies vaccination certificate with you.

2018 Rabies Clinic Flyer_Full Schedule

Pre-Register your pets for a vaccination Clinic!

You will be brought to the New York State Department of Health On-line Event Registration and Scheduling System. 

Scroll down & click the button for Essex; then click Next and follow instructions for registering your pets.

Need help? Rabies Clinic Pre-Registration Instructions are step-by-step instructions with screen shots.

Exposure to Rabies

Exposure to rabies most typically occurs through the bite of an infected animal.

Exposures can also happen if infectious material from a rabid animal (saliva, brain tissue, spinal fluid or cerebrospinal fluid) has contact with an open wound or mucous membrane.

Interactions with a rabid or potentially rabid animal where a bite, open wound or mucous membrane exposure cannot be ruled out – such as a bat in a room with a sleeping person, unattended child, intoxicated or otherwise mentally compromised person – are considered exposures.

Indirect contact – being in the same space, contact with feces or an object that had contact with a rabid or potentially rabid animal – is not considered an exposure.

If you have been bitten, scratched or have had contact with the saliva of an animal that you believe is rabid, wash the wound immediately and call your doctor. If your doctor recommends treatment, call your county health agency immediately to determine where you should receive treatment. If there is any chance of exposure to a bat through an inapparent bite, for example, a bat had direct contact with someone, or was in a room with a sleeping individual, unattended child, or with someone with mental impairment, contact your county health agency immediately to discuss the situation.

Each county outside of New York City is required by the state to authorize all treatment of individuals who have been exposed to the rabies virus within their county. With this prior authorization, it is likely that you will not have to pay for the cost of treatment. Without prior authorization, you may be responsible for treatment expenses.

County health agencies are also responsible for managing animal bites and exposure of domestic animals to known or suspect rabid animals.

Call Essex County Health Department to report exposures or if you have any questions about situations that may or may not meet exposure criteria.

Mon-Fri 8 AM  –  5 PM 873-3500     After Business Hours, Weekends , Holidays  1-877-270-7249

 About Bats

  • Not all bats have rabies. In fact most bats don’t have rabies.
  • Rabies is found in all bat species in NY.
  • Rabies can be transmitted from bats to other mammals but rabid bats rarely attack people.
  • Rabid bats may show unusual behavior like fluttering on the ground, flying during the day, or biting people or animals.
  • Avoid direct contact with all bats – bats have small teeth that may leave marks not easily seen.
  • If there is a chance a bat had direct contact with a person or pet OR if you awaken to or find a bat in a room where someone was sleeping, try to catch it so it can be given to Essex County Health Department & tested.
  • Call 873-3500 for advice on what to do and Watch this short video on the best way to capture a bat. 


If a Stray or Wild Animal is Near Your House

  1. Stay away & let it go away on its own
  2. You can contact a nuisance control officer to remove it for you for a fee
  3. Avoid killing an animal as this increases your risk for rabies exposure

If You or Your Pet is bitten or has another exposure

  1. Wash the wound with soap and water
  2. Seek immediate medical attention or contact your veterinarian – even if your pet is current with rabies vaccine it will need to be vaccinated again.
  3. Report all animal bites /exposures to Essex County Health Department

Handling Dead Animals

  1. Wear gloves and use a shovel  to pick up the animal
  2. Double bag, knot and throw away the animal OR bury the animal 3’ deep
  3. Wash gloves and shovel with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water
  4. Thoroughly wash hands with soap & water

Protect Your Pets and Livestock

The rabies virus can take weeks to months  to incubate in an animal before the animal acts unusually or rabid.  Protect yourself, your pets and livestock by:

  1. Keeping pet dogs, cats & ferrets up-to-date on their rabies vaccines
  2. Vaccinating livestock as recommended by your veterinarian
  3. Staying away from wild and stray animals

Avoid Attracting Stray and Wild Animals

*  Store bird seed, pet food & garbage indoors.

*  Do not feed pets outdoors.

*  Tightly lock outdoor compost & garbage.

Behavior of animals with rabies

Animals with rabies may show unusual behavior for their species –

  • Friendliness
  • Irritability
  • Aggressiveness
  • Staggering
  • Convulsing
  • Choking

Once an animal starts showing unusual behavior due to rabies  it will typically die within 1 week.

Additional Resources

New York State Department of Health Rabies Site

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rabies Site


Wildlife Rehabilitators

Wildlife Rehabilitators are licensed through NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.  Find a wildlife Rehabilitator Near Your (search by county).