Get your flu forms here!

Flu season has started. To be vaccinated by health department staff, a signed consent form is needed. To download the correct form, click here Flu Vaccine Immunization page. Forms for the public flu clinic appear at the top; forms for school-school based clinics are below. Scroll down and find your school in the schedule listing. Currently, three public flu clinics and 20 school-based flu clinics have been scheduled for this flu season.

Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Day Scheduled for Saturday, Oct 6

BREWSTER, NY—Putnam County will hold a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Drop-Off Day for Putnam County residents on Saturday, October 6. The Putnam County Department of Health and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are co-sponsoring the FREE event, scheduled from 9 am to 12 noon (rain or shine) at the Donald B. Smith County Government Campus located at 110 Old Route 6 in Carmel. Pre-registration is required.

Improper storage or disposal of hazardous waste poses a health risk to residents and their families. For this reason, the HHW Drop-Off Day event continues to be maintained in the budget by County Executive MaryEllen Odell as an opportunity for Putnam residents to safely dispose of toxic materials such as: household cleaners, pesticides, herbicides, oil-based paint (not latex), solvents, thinners, mothballs, rodent poisons, gasoline, kerosene, small propane tanks (up to 20 pound size), etc. For a more complete list of acceptable items, see “Special Wastes” under “Recycling” on the Green Putnam webpage at https://www.putnamcountyny.com/green-putnam/.

Disposal items must be labeled and identifiable to be accepted. Items not accepted include: water-based paints (latex/acrylic), used motor oil, lead-acid batteries, plastic bags, household alkaline batteries, tires, electronic waste or any materials from commercial establishments. Materials packed into garbage or lawn bags will also not be accepted. Latex paints can be discarded by routine means, after they have been dried out.

Call early to reserve a spot. The Putnam County Department of Health number is (845) 808-1390 ext. 43150 for questions or to pre-register.

For information regarding electronic waste disposal, call your local town. Please note that household hazardous waste items are not accepted at the town electronic waste drop-off locations.

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

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Please let us know if we can provide any additional information. Feel free to contact our Public Information Officer Barbara Ilardi with any questions at 845-808-1390.

New Research Shows Flu Vaccines Reduce Chance of Serious Illness; PCDOH Schedules Three Fall Public Flu Clinics

BREWSTER, NY— Every year scientists reformulate the flu vaccine. They base it on strains that circulated last year and ones predicted to be a threat in the upcoming season. As a result, how well the vaccine works varies each year. However, evidence from a new CDC-supported study now shows that while a vaccinated person may still get the flu, how seriously ill they become is reduced by getting the shot. The study was conducted over four flu seasons from 2012 to 2015. It showed that with a flu shot the chance of an adult being admitted to a general hospital floor with flu was reduced by 32 percent, while the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit with flu was reduced by 82 percent.

“Getting a flu shot can protect your health and the health of your family,” says County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “Our health department goes into the community to senior centers and schools and tries to make it convenient and available to as many people as possible.”

“The flu vaccine varies in effectiveness from year to year, but it is still the best way to prevent influenza and its potentially serious complications,” says interim Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD. “It prevents millions of flu illnesses and related doctors’ visits and has been proven to reduce the severity and duration of the flu, should you happen to come down with it. The bottom line is it helps protect your health all around, and the health of our community.”

Three public flu clinics are scheduled for the fall. Hosted by the Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH), the first clinic is Monday, September 24, at the Carmel Fire Department, Route 52 and Vink Drive in Carmel. The second is on Wednesday, October 10, at the Garrison Fire Department, 1616 Route 9; the third is Monday, October 22, at Carmel Fire Department again. The health department’s skilled and experienced public health nurses will be giving flu shots at each site from 2 to 6:30 p.m. No appointment is necessary.

“Early vaccination offers the best protection,” continues Dr. Nesheiwat. “It takes about two weeks for your antibodies to develop, so receiving your shot early means your protection starts sooner. Certain people need to be vaccinated. They include pregnant women, children 6 months through 18 years of age, people over 50 years of age, and those with chronic, or long-lasting, medical conditions and those who live with them. All these groups may have serious health problems if they get the flu themselves. Health care workers are also required to get the flu vaccine in order to protect their patients.”

Flu shots are important for other reasons as well. Medical and prescription costs are reduced along with work absenteeism. From a public health standpoint, flu immunization is important because it provides “herd immunity,” so that those who can’t be vaccinated because they are too young, or have a specific medical condition, are protected as well.

The clinics are open to all Putnam County residents 18 years of age and older. Proof of residency is required, along with a signed consent form. Forms will be available at the clinics, but residents are encouraged to download and complete the form ahead of time. Forms are posted on the health department’s immunization page on Putnam County website at www.putnamcountyny.com/health/immunization. The fee for vaccination is $25 for residents under 65 years of age. Those 65 years and older, or with a Medicare card, can receive the vaccine free of charge. High-dose flu vaccine is being offered for seniors, aged 65 years and older, as studies show this vaccine is more effective for this population. (Pneumonia vaccine will not be offered at the flu clinics.)

More public flu clinics may be held later this year. Any future dates will be announced on the health department’s website and through social media. Flu vaccination is also offered by the Health Department in all school districts this fall for students and staff only. Check the school calendar or with the school nurse for details of these school-based clinics.

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com ; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

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Please let us know if we can provide any additional information. Feel free to contact our Public Information Officer Barbara Ilardi with any questions at 845-808-1390.

Job Opening at Health Department

The PCDOH is looking for a civil/environmental engineer to review/ approve engineering plans, reports, and specs for water and wastewater treatment systems for compliance with regulations, conduct field inspections and testing, conduct hazardous spill investigations, and related activities as required. Starting salary is $68,811. Minimum qualifications:  MS in engineering, or BS in engineering with one (1) year experience, or NYS PE license. Mail resume to Jan Miller, Personnel Department, Donald B. Smith County Government Campus, Building 3, 110 Old Route 6, Carmel, NY 10512.

National Preparedness Month Observed for Fifteenth Year

Helping Children Recover Remains Priority in Putnam

BREWSTER, NY —The tornadoes that touched down in Putnam County this past May are just one example of how unexpected, disastrous events can occur. Preparing for these types of occurrences is what National Preparedness Month is all about. This year, the 15th annual September observance once again serves as a call-to-action, and the theme, “Disasters Happen, Plan Now, Learn How,” is good advice for everyone. It is also at the heart of the continuing work of the Putnam County Community Resilience Coalition (CRC). This group of agencies from the public, private and non-profit sectors has been working year-round, building a strong foundation to ensure the safety and well-being of children before, during and after disasters. Putnam is one of only two counties in the U.S. working to develop a plan that will help build resilient communities nationwide.

“Planning for emergencies is a challenge, for individuals and communities alike,” says County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “But the safety of our residents has always been, and continues to be, our county’s top priority. Many county agencies work together to make us better prepared. The health department conducts yearly drills, partnering with the Bureau of Emergency Services and our emergency responders, as well as law enforcement and the departments of highway and facilities, social services and transportation. Protecting our children, the most vulnerable members of our community, is paramount. We do everything we can to ensure their safety, protection and resilience.”

For the past three years, Putnam County’s Community Resilience Coalition has taught young children about emergency preparedness through fun, engaging activities, while laying a foundation among community groups to build a mental health infrastructure that can more fully support children affected by disasters.

“Our work with the Community Resilience Coalition has brought a new and essential focus to our emergency preparation and plans,” says interim Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD. “Children have of course been incorporated in previous plans. However, they were not singled out and so their needs were addressed to a lesser degree. This work has totally shifted that thinking.”

Dr. Nesheiwat went on to encourage all individuals in the county to take personal steps as well. “It doesn’t have to be complicated,” he said. “Create a list of emergency contacts and share them among family members and close friends. Adding to, or updating your emergency supplies at home, is another easy step. These are simple things nearly everyone can do.”

“Getting accurate information during an event is also important,” says Commissioner Ken Clair, of the Bureau of Emergency Services, “You can sign up for free local and state emergency messages from NY Alert.” Real-time information about current issues or threats can be sent to a cell phone. You pick the alerts you want and can choose delivery by email or text. You can also cancel or change at any time. Your personal information is completely protected and never shared. Sign up at www.nyalert.gov.

“Residents who would like to do more should consider joining the Medical Reserve Corps,” says Dr. Nesheiwat. “We still need all types of volunteers, both non-medical and medical. During an event, help is always needed with logistical support or administrative tasks to support the county’s work.” Interested residents can find out more information by visiting the Putnam County website or calling the health department at 845-808-1390.

Blue-Green Algal Blooms Persist; County Opens Beach for Affected Community Residents

BREWSTER, NY— Blue-green algal blooms have dashed many summer plans this year. Dozens of repeated beach closures have disappointed residents who enjoy cooling off in their neighborhood lake on a hot and humid summer day. While funding is coming from New York State to research solutions for the long term, County Executive MaryEllen Odell has taken immediate steps to open the Putnam County beach in Veterans Memorial Park on Gypsy Trail Road in Kent, free of charge to those residents living in affected lake communities.

“We wanted to do something right now for our community members who are dealing with these algal blooms on a daily basis,” says County Executive Odell. “This is a difficult situation. The blooms pose a serious health problem. Swimming, and even boating, can put you at risk.”

“Our public county beach at Veterans Memorial Park has fortunately remained unaffected by the blue-green algal blooms that have plagued many other Putnam beaches,” says Christopher Ruthven, deputy commissioner of parks and recreation for Putnam County. “We’re open from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. until Labor Day, and for residents affected by the harmful algal blooms in their community lakes, the usual $8 fee for a day pass is being waived.”

Odell adds, “Being able to use the beach at Veterans Memorial Park provides a silver lining to an unfortunate situation. At the park individuals and families can enjoy the swimming in the lake, relaxing on the beach, barbecuing, hiking the trails, visiting the Veterans Museum or admiring the Gold Star Mothers statue or the military helicopter and tank.”

The increasing number of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Putnam and around New York State is not completely understood. Staff at the Putnam County Department of Health have been busier than ever collecting and sending lake water samples for testing.

“We are working closely with town and beach personnel,” explains Michael Nesheiwat, MD, interim commissioner of health. “They are well-informed and able to quickly recognize these harmful algal blooms. When there is an overabundance, or bloom, of this cyanobacteria, the onsite personnel are able to shut down the beaches directly without a confirmatory visit by the health department. This is important as blooms can present a serious health hazard and these microscopic organisms are toxic to humans and animals if swallowed. At high levels, ingestion may cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, along with irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract.

“Needless to say, we are grateful to the County Executive who has stepped in to waive the park fee for residents in the affected communities,” continues Dr. Nesheiwat.

Toxic bacteria are naturally present in low numbers in lakes and streams. However, in warm, shallow, undisturbed surface water that gets a lot of sunlight, the bacteria can grow quickly and easily, creating a bloom. When this happens, floating scums on the water surface may appear, along with discolored water covering all or portions of a lake.

The Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) continues to monitor the county’s 32 permitted bathing beaches, while also responding to calls from town, village and summer camp personnel. Blue-green algae can range in color from green, blue, brown, yellow, grey, or even red. Contact should be avoided with any discolored water, with or without a floating covering or unpleasant odor. When the water clears, either naturally or by treatment, follow-up water testing must be conducted. Toxins can still be present even after the bloom looks like it has passed.

“After a satisfactory result on a water test, town and beach personnel can re-open the beach,” explains associate public health sanitarian Shawn Rogan. “And we work closely with the towns to reopen as soon as possible. The problem we are seeing more and more of is that the algae can ‘re-bloom’ shortly thereafter, making it necessary to close the beach once again.”

Some towns choose to apply an algaecide, but they have the same precautions as any pesticide.  Treatment methods, if any, are strictly a town decision, and application of an algaecide requires approval by the Department of Environmental Conservation.  Prevention efforts focus on ways to control the level of nutrients the algae receive. These include reducing plant fertilizer use, promoting efficient septic systems operations, and managing storm water. These tactics are supported by the DEC, but much is still unknown about the causes of HABs.

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

Heat Wave Brings Health Problems

Brewster, NY- When the temperatures soar, health problems can arise. Staying cool and hydrated is the key to staying healthy and safe in a heat wave. Even those who are young and physically fit can suffer heat-related illness in extreme temperatures, especially when the hot weather lasts a few days. During hot weather, outdoor activities are best done in the early morning or evening hours when it is coolest.

“Residents should be careful during any hot weather. Watch out for your family and friends, and check in on your neighbors. Infants, young children and the elderly can have more problems in hot weather,” says MaryEllen Odell. “During extreme heat events, cooling centers are opened during the day for Putnam residents.”

“A list of Putnam cooling center locations is posted online, along with the phone numbers you can call to check their hours of operation, “says Ken Clair, Commissioner of Emergency Services. The list is available at the NYS Department of Health website at https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/weather/cooling/.

Heat stroke, sometimes also called sun stroke, is the most dangerous type of heat-related illness. “Heat stroke actually causes several thousand deaths each year in the United States,” says Michael Nesheiwat, M.D., Interim Commissioner of Health. “When a person’s body temperature goes over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, all sorts of very serious problems can occur, including damage to your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. If you suspect someone has heat stroke, call 911 immediately. The longer treatment is delayed the higher the risk of serious complications or death. Before help arrives, move the person to a cooler location, out of the sun or into air conditioning, and lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath.”

In addition to a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher, symptoms of heat stroke include altered mental state or behavior, confusion, nausea, rapid breathing, racing heart or headache.

Heat exhaustion, although less severe than heat stroke, is another heat-related problem. Signs of this include cold, pale, clammy skin, dizziness, fainting, nausea, muscle cramps or headache.  “If you experience these symptoms, move to a cooler location and apply cool water to lower your temperature. With heat exhaustion, drink sips of water every 15 minutes for one hour,” Dr. Nesheiwat advises.

Heat cramps or painful spasms in the legs and abdomen can also occur, but are less severe. If a person is on a low-sodium diet or has heart problems, seek medical attention right away. Otherwise, drink sips of water every 15 minutes for one hour. If cramps don’t go away within one hour, seek medical care.

Take the following precautions to avoid problems in hot weather. Drink plenty of fluids and don’t wait to be thirsty to drink. Water is best because it replenishes your body’s natural fluids. Alcohol and very sugary drinks should be avoided because they dehydrate the body. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Apply it 30 minutes before going out because a sunburn will affect the body’s ability to cool down. Stay indoors in a cool or air-conditioned place as much as possible. Never leave a person or pet in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are open or you think it may be only for a few minutes.

For more information on heat-related illness during prolonged periods of extreme temperatures, call the Putnam County Department of Health at (845) 808-1390.

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

Blue-Green Algae Arrives Early, Again

BREWSTER, NY— Blue-green algal blooms have arrived early for the second consecutive year. So far this year, seven public beaches in Putnam County have been closed due to harmful growth. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are more than a simple nuisance. They can present a serious health hazard. Residents should be cautious when swimming, boating, or even just cooling off in waters with any algae.

The increasing number of HABs in Putnam is not entirely unexpected and county staff have been preparing. Earlier this year, the Putnam County Department of Health held a seminar with the support of the New York State (NYS) departments of Health and Environmental Conservation. Beach and water operators, along with residents, were invited to learn about ways to reduce the health risks of algal blooms. NYS funds are also being set aside to protect vulnerable lakes and other waterbodies from HABs.

“These harmful blooms are a significant issue for our county,” says County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “We have a number of beautiful lakes that have been affected. This can cause problems for recreation, and potentially for the quality of our drinking water. State funding and expertise will help us combat this problem.”

“Warming temperatures may be to blame in part for the increasing number and duration of blue-green algae blooms,” explains Michael Nesheiwat, MD, Interim Commissioner of Health. “The type in Putnam is technically known as cyanobacteria. These toxin-producing microscopic organisms are harmful to humans and animals if swallowed. At high levels, ingestion may cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, along with irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract.”

Toxic bacteria are naturally present in low numbers in lakes and streams. However, in warm, shallow, undisturbed surface water that gets a lot of sunlight, the bacteria can grow quickly and easily, creating a bloom. When this happens, floating scums on the water surface may appear, along with discolored water covering all or portions of a lake.

The Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) closely monitors permitted bathing beaches, performing periodic checks at regular weekly or biweekly intervals depending on the situation. The PCDOH also responds to calls from town, village and summer camp personnel. However, when there is visible presence of blue-green algae, operators of permitted beaches must close their beach. Colors can also range from green, blue, brown, yellow, grey, or even red. Contact should be avoided with any discolored water, with or without a floating covering or unpleasant odor. When the water clears, either naturally or by treatment, follow-up water testing must be conducted. Toxins can still be present even after the bloom looks like it has passed.

“Only after a satisfactory result on a water test are town and beach personnel permitted to re-open the beach,” explains associate public health sanitarian Shawn Rogan. “We work closely with the towns to reopen the beach as soon as possible. If the water tests are acceptable, we can usually open a beach within two days.”

The PCDOH has four recommendations for residents to protect themselves from HABs. Avoiding exposure to all visible algae blooms is the number-one precaution. In addition to not swimming, even playing by the water, wading, or water-skiing may cause accidental swallowing, skin exposure, or inhalation of airborne droplets, and all should be avoided. Use added caution with open cuts or sores.  The second precaution is not to allow young children or pets to play in water where an algal bloom is present. The third is to wash hands and body thoroughly if any exposure occurs, and the fourth is not to use any water from lakes with algal blooms for drinking unless treated through a municipal water treatment plant.

There are water treatments to reduce the blooms in lakes but prevention is by far the best tactic. Treatments can involve the use of algaecides, but they have the same precautions as any pesticide.  Treatment methods, if any, are strictly a town decision, and application of an algaecide requires approval by the DEC.  Other prevention efforts involve community-wide efforts to reduce plant fertilizer use, promote efficient septic systems operations, and to manage storm water. Each of these strategies for residents helps to control the level of nutrients the algae receive and may limit their growth. These tactics are supported by the DEC, but much is still unknown about the causes of HABs.

“Reducing the use of fertilizer in a community may reduce the number and severity of blooms,” adds Mr. Rogan.  “However blooms have also occurred in remote Adirondack lakes as well.”

For more information on blue-green algae:

https://www.putnamcountyny.com/health/harmful-algae-blooms-habs/

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

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Please let us know if we can provide any additional information. Feel free to contactour Public Information Officer Barbara Ilardi with any questions at 845-808-1390.

PCDOH Offers Free HIV Testing on June 27 – 1 in 5 new cases are among youth and young adults

BREWSTER, NY— About 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and one in seven of them don’t know that they are infected. These statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta are the reason for having National HIV Testing Day each year on June 27— to encourage people of all ages to get tested. This year the Putnam County Department of Health will again be offering free HIV testing on Wednesday, June 27, at the main health department office at 1 Geneva Road in Brewster from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We have come a long way in improving the treatment for HIV since the disease was first seen in the U.S. decades ago,” says County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “That’s why it is important to get tested and start treatment early.”

“Undetected and untreated, the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, usually causes AIDS, which is often a fatal disease,” said Michael Nesheiwat, MD, Putnam County’s Interim Commissioner of Health. “However today numerous medications exist to treat the virus. Early diagnosis and treatment has transformed patient outcomes and they can live long and productive lives. Even one death from AIDS today is too many. Early detection and treatment is also key to limiting spread of the virus. Everyone should be tested for HIV testing at least once, if not on a routine basis.”

In the early stages of HIV infection a person may feel fine. The only way to know for certain if a person is infected is to get tested. Free HIV testing and counseling will be offered by the Putnam County Department of Health on June 27 with results ready in just 20 minutes. No appointments are necessary, and privacy and confidentiality are ensured. Free condoms, giveaways and educational information will be available.

This year the official CDC theme for the day is “Doing It My Way, Testing for HIV,” which highlights the importance of HIV testing and that individuals can choose HIV testing on their own terms. For those who are busy on June 27, or wish to be tested at a different time, the health department offers free testing throughout the year as well. The walk-in clinic hours are on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Other options include getting tested by a personal health care provider or at the federally qualified health center Open Door Brewster. When and where to get tested is a person’s own choice. The important thing is to get tested. For questions or concerns about scheduling a test, or for more information about HIV testing or HIV/AIDS education and prevention, contact the health department at (845) 808-1390.

HIV can affect anyone regardless of age, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender. Among new HIV diagnoses in 2016 in the U.S., 21 percent were among youth and young adults, aged 13 to 24 years of age. People aged 50 and older have many of the same HIV risk factors as younger people, but may be less aware of their risk. In 2015, people aged 50 and older accounted for 17 percent of those living with HIV infection.

Today people with HIV and AIDS do live longer, healthier lives, and new research is promising, but there is still no vaccine or cure for HIV. Safe sex is still the best “primary prevention.” Older Americans are more likely than youth to be tested later in the course of their disease. This means delayed treatment, and as a result, more health problems. Despite medical advances, HIV/AIDS is still a significant cause of death for some age groups. It was the 8th leading cause of death for those 25 to 34 years of age in 2014 in the U.S.

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

Spring Brings Increased Risk for Rabies

Brewster, NY—Rabies is a serious threat to the health of humans and animals and is deadly when left untreated. As the temperature rises, the numbers of rabies cases increase as well. Springtime is when wild baby animals are born and bats often return to the local area. In New York State, more than half of the rabies cases in wild animals are in raccoons, followed by bats, skunks and foxes. To prevent the spread of rabies, stay away from wild animals, even if they seem friendly. So far in 2018, one skunk and one raccoon in Putnam County have tested positive for rabies. Domesticated animals, such as cats and dogs, can also become sick with rabies. Regular pet vaccination can protect them.

“A person can become infected with the rabies virus through a bite from a sick animal,” says interim Commissioner of Health Michael J. Nesheiwat, M.D. from the Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH).  “Infection occurs when saliva from an infected animal comes in contact with an open wound or bite, or an individual’s eyes, nose or mouth. Remember, an animal does not have to look sick to be infected and the only way to tell if an animal has rabies is to test their brain tissue. That is why it is never a good idea to approach a wild or stray animal, no matter how cute.”

Every year, well-meaning residents try to help baby animals they think may have been abandoned. Instead, residents are urged to leave the animal alone, or call a wildlife rehabilitator to see if the animal truly needs assistance. Children should be taught to avoid all wild and stray animals and to tell an adult about any contact with an animal, including an unfamiliar pet.

“While wildlife and feral cats account for a portion of required rabies treatments, the number-one reason for treatments in Putnam County remains bats,” continues Dr. Nesheiwat. “If you find a bat in your home, it is important to capture it safely,” adds Dr. Nesheiwat. “We are able to test a captured bat for rabies and if it is not infected you can avoid the two-week series of shots.” To safely capture a bat, watch the popular demo from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), available on the Putnam County website at https://www.putnamcountyny.com/how-to-capture-a-bat/ .

Other programs to reduce the chance of spreading rabies include the PCDOH pet vaccination clinics and the Feral Cat Task Force. Free vaccination clinics are usually held three times a year—in March, July and November. The next event will be held at Hubbard Lodge in Cold Spring on July 28 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. The Feral Cat Task Force has captured, neutered, vaccinated and returned 31 cats, and adopted or fostered 17 kittens so far in 2018. For people interested in volunteering or making a donation in support of this program, please contact the Health Department at 845-808-1390 ext. 43160.

All animal bites or contact with wild animals should be reported promptly to the PCDOH at 845-808-1390. After hours or on weekends/holidays report the incident by calling the department’s environmental health hotline at 845-808-1390 and press “3.” A representative will promptly return your call. If a family pet encounters a wild animal, avoid immediate handling of your pet, or use rubber gloves and call the health department. Trained personnel will test a wild animal for possible rabies after an incident involving human or pet contact.

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at www.facebook.com/putnamhealth and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.