By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
Susan Silverberg, 56, is getting precautionary rabies shots after a raccoon attacked her and her dog last week near her apartment complex off Meadowbrook Road in Queensbury.
“It was Thursday, Sept. 28, at 8:45 p.m., and I was walking my dog Bauer, a Lab mix, and he was barking and barking and I couldn’t figure out why.
“Then a raccoon jumps out of a tree and charged us! I started punching the raccoon and he bit me on the hand and wrist, and scratched the hell out of my right arm.
“…I was screaming, the raccoon was screaming, everyone was screaming. It was just a brawl. I was punching the raccoon. It probably lasted 30 seconds to a minute, but it felt like an eternity. It felt like forever.”
She said she was in her apartment development, which she wouldn’t identify, “but I stay by the lamp posts,” she said.
After the attack, “I came home and I was hysterical. I washed my wounds with alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.”
She said her dog Bauer was fine, with no injuries. “I jumped in between them.”
She said she wasn’t thinking clearly and didn’t think she needed medical attention. But when her sister Camille West Wodicka came over the next morning, “she took me to the hospital, and the folks at the hospital told me that a raccoon normally retreats. They don’t attack.”
She said the emergency room doctor “called Warren County Public Health and described my wounds and bite marks. It did break the skin, especially the scratches which are very deep, and the bite marks were raised and pink.
“The doctor told me it is better to be safe than sorry,” so she received a dose of rabies vaccine as well as several shots of Rabies Immune Globulin.
“Because of the deep scratches and puncture marks, they had to inject all around the wounds,” she said.
What’s protocol? Who alerts whom?
Pat Belden, Warren County Public Health’s rabies program coordinator, said privacy laws prevent her from talking about this specific case. But she said in general her office does not contact law enforcement or the Department of Environmental Conservation after a wild animal attack. “Anyone has a right to call the Sheriff or DEC,” she said. “Our job as a nursing department is to protect the individual who has to be treated. Wildlife is out there. People just have to be careful and take precautions.”
We then contacted Warren County Sheriff Bud York, who said, “I do not know what Warren County Public Health’s protocol is, but should anyone be attacked at any time, anywhere in Warren County, by a wild animal, we as the police should be notified so we can take the appropriate action to investigate to see if the animal is rabid or not.”
Queensbury Town Supervisor John Strough said he was not notified of the attack, either. “What normally happens,” he said, “is Public Health calls the SPCA or the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.”
Darlene Hayes, who chairs the Warren County SPCA board, told us they received “no notification from Warren County Public Health. They have their own processes and do not enlist us.”
Mr. Strough responds, “Well, I think they need to work that out. If Public Health doesn’t have the resources, they should call the Sheriff’s Office or the SPCA or both so they can take care of it as soon as possible so as not to endanger the public.”
Ms. Silverberg said she contacted her landlord “and I put a note on the front door to tell people to please be vigilant.”
Told on Tuesday that law enforcement had not been contacted by Warren County Public Health, Ms. Silverberg said she would contact them directly.
Rabies shots ‘like liquid fire’
Ms. Silverberg described the shots she received as “feeling like liquid fire going into your body. It’s awful.” She said she has two more rabies vaccine shots scheduled, on Friday, Oct. 6, and Friday, Oct. 13.
Her treatment correlates with protocol recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on its website.
“I don’t wish this on anyone,” Ms. Silverberg said. “I’m lucky. I only got it in the arm.” She quipped, “No more arm modeling for me, I guess!”
“I just moved up here and I like it here,” she said. “It’s unfortunate this happened to me, but I’m not moving. I still like it here. I hope they do catch the raccoon, though.”
And she still walks Bauer. “But now I walk him a little earlier with a broom stick in my hand,” she said.
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