Three bats in Suffolk County have tested positive for rabies this week, and health officials Friday urged the public to be cautious.
The bats that carried rabies, a deadly disease that attacks the central nervous system, were collected in Sayville, Islip Terrace and Islip between Monday and Thursday, officials said.
“We estimate that in any given year, 3 to 6 percent of the local bat population typically test positive for rabies. Given that we have had three test positive in close proximity within days is reason for enhanced caution,” said Suffolk health commissioner Dr. James Tomarken.
Wild animals are the most common carriers of rabies, but it can infect any mammal.
Health officials recommend the following anti-rabies safeguards:
•Do not feed, touch or approach wild animals, or stray dogs or cats.
•Be sure pet dogs, cats and ferrets, as well as horses and other livestock animals, are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Pets too young to be vaccinated should be kept indoors and allowed outside only under direct observation.
•Keep family pets indoors at night. Do not leave them outside unattended or let them roam free.
•Keep your property free of stored bird seed or foods that may attract wild animals. Feed pets indoors.
•Do not transport or relocate any wild animals.
•Teach children not to touch any animal they do not know and to tell an adult immediately if they are bitten by any animal.
To keep bats from getting into buildings:
•Do not leave unscreened doors or windows open to the outside.
•Make sure windows have screens, chimneys are capped, and electrical and plumbing openings are plugged.
•Seal up all openings larger than 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch square into the attic, basement, walls or occupied areas of the house.
If a bat is found in your home, avoid contact with it. Attempt to contain the animal and contact the Suffolk Department of Health Services immediately.
All animal bites or contact with wild animals should be reported by calling (631) 853-0333 weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, call (631) 852-4820.
For more information on rabies, see state.ny.us/nysdoh/rabies/rabies.htm, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies/.