A Salamanca man who was severely injured late last month in his own home by a raccoon is serving as a reminder that post-exposure rabies vaccines are important.

Cattaraugus County Health Department Patient Services director Lynn Moore told the county Board of Health Wednesday that as the man slept on a couch in his living room, he was severely scratched and bitten about the face, neck and arms.

Apparently, the nocturnal animal had entered the house through a pet door.

The man, who was not identified, is undergoing a series of post-exposure rabies vaccine shots because the raccoon got away and could not be tested for rabies, Moore said.

The man tried to strangle the raccoon after he awoke as it attacked him, Moore said. The raccoon dropped to the floor and scampered off.

The man called 911 and was taken to Olean General Hospital. City police and the city animal control officer were unable to find the raccoon in or around the home, officials said.

Eric Wohlers, director of the Health Department’s Environmental Health Division, said raccoons and other animals usually don’t start becoming more active until spring.

“It’s a little unusual to have an incident like this in late February, but spring is just around the corner,” Wohlers added.

IN OTHER NEWS, influenza remains widespread across the state with 9,5651 lab-confirmed cases in mid-February, Public Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins told board members.

That’s a 2 percent increase from the previous week. There have also been four infant deaths associated with the flu in New York, Watkins said.

Most of the cases in New York and Cattaraugus County have been Influenza A, Watkins said. In some age groups, the 2018-19 vaccine has been very effective, initial studies show.

In the 50 plus age group, the vaccine was found to be only 24 percent effective, while ages six months to eight years old it was 61 percent effective. That dropped to 37 percent for ages 18-19, Watkins said.

The sample was 352 individuals in a half dozen states. More than half the lab-confirmed cases in the study did not get the vaccine, Watkins said.

Health Department Medical Director Dr. Gilbert Witte wondered if the county’s policy of giving seniors a double dose of the vaccine was more protective. In any event, those who were vaccinated and later contracted the flu seem to have a milder case.

Watkins said this year’s influenza vaccine was much better than the 2017-18 batch developed by the Centers for Disease Control. That vaccine was not very effective,” he said.

Watkins also said that March is Colorectal Month and the county’s rate of colorectal examinations is below the state average. One reason is that many people don’t have a primary physician and are less likely to have the exam.

Eight men and seven women in the county died from the colorectal disease in 2017, Watkins said. It’s the second deadliest cancer in the county after lung cancer.

Statewide, 1,600 men and 1,700 women died from the disease the same year, he said. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in the state.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)