Monday, March 31, 2014
A third case of rabies has been confirmed in Egg Harbor Township according to the Atlantic County Division of Public Health.
“All three cases this year have come from Egg Harbor Township,” noted County Health Officer Patricia Diamond. “Two cases have involved raccoons and the first case of 2014 was found in a skunk.”
On March 24 a property owner in the 4000 block of Ridge Avenue heard an animal in the back yard in the early morning hours. The owner observed the raccoon drinking from a water bowl and using a cat box located in the yard for use by two outdoor cats. The owner contacted the police and the animal control officer who promptly removed the raccoon and sent it to the state lab for testing where it was confirmed to have the viral disease on March 28.
An investigation by the Division of Public Health is ongoing to determine if the owners’ cats are currently vaccinated.
“We cannot stress enough the importance of vaccinating your household pets for rabies,” stated Diamond. “Not only does it protect the pet, but it also provides a barrier to human exposure.”
The Atlantic County Animal Shelter provides a free rabies vaccination clinic each month for dogs and cats. The shelter most recently vaccinated 195 pets at its March 30 clinic.
“The monthly free rabies vaccination clinics are an invaluable county service. They are among many services provided by the county animal shelter that protect public health and safety,” said County Executive Dennis Levinson. “We also discourage residents from feeding wildlife or leaving food outside for animals as it so often attracts unwanted attention.”
The next clinic will be held on Sunday, April 6 from 10 AM to 12 noon at 240 Old Turnpike Road in Pleasantville. Dogs must be brought on leashes and cats in carriers. For more information call (609) 485-2345 or visit www.aclink.org/animalshelter.
Rabies is a viral disease that can be fatal if left untreated. It is most common in raccoons and bats, but has also been found in skunks, foxes, cats, groundhogs and other wildlife in New Jersey.
Atlantic County reported eight positive rabies cases last year - four raccoons, two bats and two cats.
Residents who find a wild or stray animal on their property should leave it alone until an animal control officer, police officer or other responder arrives on the scene to capture and/or remove it.
Public health officials recommend the following steps to protect your family and pets from rabies:
Make sure your dog or cat's rabies vaccination is current. Residents may check with their local municipality for the date and location of their annual rabies vaccination clinic or attend one of the county’s free monthly clinics.
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. Situations have arisen where pet owners have left unvaccinated or newly vaccinated pets outdoors where they have sustained exposures to known or suspect rabid animals, resulting in euthanasia or six months strict confinement. Keep your pet on a leash. Do not allow your pet to roam; it can come in contact with rabid wildlife.
Teach your children to stay away from wild, stray or aggressive animals.
Never feed or touch wild animals, especially bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, or groundhogs. Do not try to keep these animals as pets.
If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention.
Report all animal bites to the Atlantic County Division of Public Health at 609-645-5971.
For more information about rabies control and precautions to protect your family and your pets, please visit the county Web site at www.aclink.org/publichealth or call 609-645-5971.