Cost of a rabid cow: $23,000
A rabid cow is going to cost Oneida County more than $20,000.
Late last year, 11 Herkimer County residents were exposed to the cow, which they may have owned, and then needed medical treatment.
And when a person without health insurance is exposed to a rabid animal, state law requires that the county where the exposure took place pay for treatment, Oneida County Senior Sanitarian Bobbi Jo Girven said.
About half of the residents lacked insurance, so the bill added up to about $23,000.
Acting Oneida County Public Health Director Daniel Gilmore said he’d done a lot of research to make certain the county really was responsible for the bill.
“I pressed that very hard,” he said. “For $23,000, you can imagine.”
The residents’ home, which was on a farm that straddles Oneida and Herkimer counties, was in Herkimer County. The cow, however, was in Oneida County.
The Oneida County Board of Legislators Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to transfer the funds to a special account for rabies control to pay the bill. The full board should vote on the move at its next meeting on March 25.
Because of confidentiality laws, the Oneida County Public Health Department would not reveal the identities of any of the people, or say which town they lived in.
The Observer-Dispatch has filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the county for records relating to the incident.
The cow was euthanized and the rabies confirmed, officials said.
It’s not clear how the cow was infected, but it’s possible it was bitten by a rabid barn cat. The cow did not bite anyone, but the residents may have been exposed to its saliva, officials said.
Rabies is transmitted through saliva.
The law is strict because rabies is fatal if it’s not treated quickly after exposure, Girven said.
“If they put off, it could be too late,” she said.
There will be no additional costs to Oneida County taxpayers because other county Public Health Department funds were available to cover it, Gilmore said. About 36 percent of the cost will ultimately be reimbursed by the state Department of Health, he said.
County Legislator Ed Welsh, R-Utica, who is vice chairman of the legislature’s Public Health Committee, said the committee had questioned the allocation at first, but then has been told it was required by law.
“If this happened in the other county it would be the same thing for them,” he said. “I feel bad for the people who got exposed.”