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The number of wild animals testing positive for rabies in Erie County – and several recent incidents of rabid animals biting residents – led public health authorities Friday to issue an alert about the problem.

To date in 2014, 13 animals – five raccoons, five bats and a cat, skunk and fox – have tested positive for rabies in the county.

Wednesday, a rabid bat bit a 15-month-old West Seneca girl on the face in her bedroom. Thursday, a rabid raccoon bit man in Alden when he attempted to stop the animal from attacking his dog. Also on Thursday, a Buffalo resident found a rabid bat in his home.

Rabies is caused by a virus that people and other mammals can get through exposure to the saliva or nervous tissue of a rabid animal, and if untreated, is almost always fatal, according to public health officials. The virus is preventable in pets by vaccinating them to protect against the disease.

“To stay safe, never handle a bat or any other wild animal,” said Dr. Gale R. Burstein, Erie County health commissioner. “In addition, it is extremely important that all household pets receive rabies vaccinations.”

Officials recommended that residents contact the county’s Division of Environmental Health at 961-6800 if they come into contact with an animal that may have rabies.

The county will offer three additional free rabies clinics in September, each from 4 to 7 p.m.: Sept. 10 at Erie Community College North Campus, 6205 Main St., Amherst, in the Noonan Center maintenance garage; Sept. 16 in the Springville Fire Company, 405 W. Main St.; and Sept. 24 in the West Seneca Highway Garage, 39 South Ave.

email: citydesk@buffnews.com