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Zoonoses (Animal-related diseases)


A zoonosis or zoonotic disease is one that normally exists in animals, but can infect humans. Human illness from a zoonotic disease agent is often accidental. People can become infected through contact with infected livestock, game animals, and pets. Also, some zoonotic diseases are transmitted to humans through tick and mosquito bites. 

Over 200 zoonoses have been described and they have been known for many centuries.  They are caused by all types of agents: bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses and unconventional agents. Check out the CDC zoonotics website for more information.


 Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). People get rabies from the bite of an animal with rabies (a rabid animal). Any wild mammal (bat, raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, etc.) can have rabies and transmit it to people. Domestic animals (dogs, cats, ferrets) can also contract and transmit rabies. It is possible, but rare, that people may get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.

Rabies is a fatal disease. The goals of public health are to prevent human exposure to rabies through education and vaccination of domestic animals, and to prevent the disease with anti-rabies treatment if exposure occurs. Tens of thousands of people are successfully treated each year after being bitten by an animal that may have rabies. A few people die of rabies each year in the United States, usually because they do not recognize the risk of rabies from the bite of a wild animal and do not seek medical advice.

Please contact the Rabies Coordinator at 518-648-6497 for more information or to report a possible exposure. To report a possible exposure when the public health office is closed, please contact the Sheriff's Office at 518-548-3113.

Rabies Vaccination for Pets

New York State law requires that all dogs, cats and domesticated ferrets be vaccinated against rabies. If an unvaccinated pet, or one that is overdue for a booster vaccination, comes into contact with a potentially rabid animal, the pet must be destroyed or strictly quarantined for six months.

It is essential that pet owners make sure that animals are immunized against rabies and that the vaccinations are kept up-to-date. Vaccinated animals that come in contact with wild animals that test positive for rabies are required to have a booster vaccination, which must be given within five days of exposure.

Pets must be 3 months of age to receive their first immunization, which will protect them for one year. The next shot (booster) provides protection for 3 years and is required one year after the first shot was given. Following this, a booster should be given every three years to protect your pet. Initial and booster shots will be given at free clinics scheduled throughout the year by Hamilton County Public Health.

Lyme Disease

 Lyme disease is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium called a spirochete (pronounced spy-ro-keet) that is carried by ticks. An infected tick can transmit the spirochete to the humans and animals it bites. Untreated, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream, establishes itself in various body tissues, and can cause a number of symptoms, some of which are severe. 

If  treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of the disease, you are likely to recover completely. In later stages, response to treatment may be slower, but the majority of people with Lyme disease recover completely with appropriate treatment. 

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and local health departments continue to investigate the spread of Lyme disease throughout New York State. 

Protect Yourself

Your best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work, or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself:

  • Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
  • Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
  • Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.
  • Consider using insect repellent.
  • Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid contacting vegetation.
  • Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
  • Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly. 

NYSDOH: Lyme Disease

CDC: Lyme Disease