Health Department Urges Any Prospect Park Visitors Who Were Recently Bitten By a Squirrel to Seek Medical Care

Five people were attacked by a potentially rabid squirrel between July 18 and July 20 near the Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance to the park

While rabies in squirrels is extremely rare, this squirrel may be rabid based on its unusual aggressive behavior

July 21, 2017 — The Health Department today urged any Prospect Park visitors that have been bitten by a squirrel in the area of the park near the Parkside Avenue entrance since July 10th to immediately seek rabies post-exposure prophylaxis at an emergency room and to bring any pets that have been bitten by a squirrel to a veterinarian. The recommendation comes after five people were attacked and bitten by an unusually aggressive squirrel near the Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance to the park. The incidents occurred between Tuesday, July 18 and Thursday, July 20. All the attacks occurred in the same area of the park. Four patients have been identified; a fifth, who was attacked while jogging, has not been identified. This is an isolated incident. Squirrels are rarely infected with rabies; however, based on the unusual aggressive behavior, the Health Department is acting under the assumption that the animal is rabid.

Flyers are being posted at the entrance near the area where the incidents occurred. New Yorkers should continue to use the park, but are warned against feeding or approaching any wildlife.

Any person or pet bitten by wildlife anywhere should contact their health care provider or veterinarian to determine if medical care is needed.

The Parks Department and the Prospect Park Alliance are searching for the animal. If the squirrel was infected with rabies it is likely already dead.

Generally, squirrels do not carry rabies. The Health Department has not identified any other rabid animals in Prospect Park or Brooklyn in 2017. Since rabies surveillance began in 1992, New York State has never identified a squirrel with rabies. Additionally, there have been no known cases of squirrel-to-human rabies transmission in the United States. The Health Department receives approximately 70 reports of squirrel bites a year, and the cause is mostly attributed to feeding.

“This animal has exhibited extremely unusual behavior and we are urging anyone who has been bitten by it, including any pets, to go and see your doctor or veterinarian,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Most squirrel bites occur when someone attempts to feed the animal. Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never feed wild animals.”

"Aggression in squirrels is extremely rare, but park-goers' behavior toward all wildlife should remain the same: Do not approach the animals with whom we share our city, but rather appreciate them from a distance. Keeping your distance protects both you and the animals themselves," said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP.

New Yorkers should always keep themselves and pets safe distance away from wildlife, and do not feed wildlife. If you see an injured or orphaned animal, call 311.

In the case of an emergency, any hospital in New York City will care for you, regardless of your immigration status or ability to pay. You will not be turned away.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez (347) 396-4177

PressOffice@health.nyc.gov