Fulton and Montgomery counties have reported an increase in people's possible exposure to rabies.
Fulton County Public Health Director Denise Frederick said while her department has not seen an increase in confirmed animal cases of rabies this year, it has seen an increase in cases of possible human exposure. Frederick did not have a precise number for this year.
The increase in possible exposure has largely come from bats, which have been going inside homes more often because of the hot summer. Frederick said any incident of a bat flying around the room while someone is asleep is considered a possible exposure.
Montgomery County Public Health Director Cindy Christman was unable to give statistics for animals tested for rabies this year, but she said spending for people's post-exposure treatment has gone up.
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors voted in August to transfer $15,000 to the Public Health Department to help pay for post-exposure treatments.
According to Frederick, post-exposure treatment costs around $1,000. If the patient lacks health insurance, the county must pay all of the cost. With health insurance, the county pays what is not covered by insurance.
In 2011, Fulton County reported 12 specimens tested for rabies. Two were considered positive - one dog and one bat - and 23 people were given post-exposure treatment. Three treatments were due to dogs, 12 from bats, seven from stray cats and one from a raccoon.
Montgomery County reported 22 animals tested last year. Three animals were found positive - two skunks and a bat. A total of 14 residents received post-exposure treatment in Montgomery County last year.
Frederick and Christman said if a person is bitten by an animal, it is important to not let the animal escape so it can be tested, monitored or investigated. Otherwise, the person would need to go through the post-exposure treatment.
Frederick said one raccoon tested positive in January.
Christman was not sure of the numbers so far in Montgomery County this year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, rabies "infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death."
The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.
Christman said treatments include shots of immune globulin to fight the disease and a vaccine to prevent someone from catching it again. She said repeated bites require additional shots based on a person's weight.
Montgomery County offers information on protection from rabies and how to capture a bat in a home. Go to the Public Health website at www.co.montgomery.ny.us