Eatontown — The Monmouth County Health Department (MCHD) reminds residents that rabies in wildlife continues to pose a risk to pets and people after a resident and their dog needed treatment following bites from a rabid raccoon.
“Protecting your pets by keeping them current on their rabies vaccine is an important buffer between wildlife rabies and human exposure,” said Freeholder John P. Curley, liaison to the County Health Department. “Not only does the vaccine keep your pet safe, but it can help keep you and your family safe as well.”
“An altercation between an Eatontown resident’s dog and a raccoon has resulted in the resident and the dog receiving rabies post exposure treatment following an incident with a rabid raccoon earlier this month,” said Christopher Merkel, Monmouth County’s Public Health Coordinator.
Officials say the owner was trying to remove the pet from the situation and was bitten as well in the process. Subsequently, the State Department of Health Public Health Laboratory has confirmed that the raccoon tested positive for rabies.
Both the resident and the dog are receiving Rabies Post Exposure Prophylaxis. The resident’s dog has been administered rabies booster shots and is being observed for any signs of the illness.
“Fortunately this dog was up to date with his vaccinations,” said Merkel. “This is a reminder to all other residents to check your pet’s vaccination and health records and make sure they are current. Indoor animals should also be vaccinated.”
Over the past five years, MCDH has confirmed 10 cats and no dogs with rabies in Monmouth County.
In addition to vaccinating your pets for rabies, there are several things residents can do to protect themselves and their pets:
• Avoid wildlife and animals you do not know.
• Keep your pet on a leash. Do not allow your pet to roam; it can come in contact with rabid wildlife.
• Never feed or touch wild or stray animals, especially stray cats, bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes or groundhogs.
• Teach your children that they should tell you if they were bitten or scratched by an animal.
• Call your doctor and the local health department if bitten or exposed to saliva or blood.
• Contact your veterinarian if your pet was exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk or other wild carnivore.
“It is important to remember that cats, as well as dogs, should be vaccinated for rabies,” said Merkel.
“According to the latest published data by the CDC, cats continue to be the number one domestic animal confirmed with rabies: 303 cats confirmed in 2010 compared to 69 dogs.
Dogs and cats who receive an initial rabies vaccination are not considered immunized until 28 days after the vaccine has been administered, therefore it is strongly recommended that any animal newly vaccinated or those too young to receive the vaccine (less than three months) not be left outdoors unattended.
“If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention,” said Merkel.
According to the CDC, rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the CDC each year from New Jersey occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks and bats.
CDC explains that the rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.