Within the last week, two raccoons in Salem County were submitted to the state Public Health and Environmental Laboratory for rabies testing and were found to be positive for the rabies virus. The raccoons were located in Upper Pittsgrove and Alloway townships.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous systems of humans and other mammals. In the United States, rabies is mostly found in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. The virus is transmitted through exposure to tissue, saliva, or any body fluids from an infected animal. The highest risk exposure involves a bite, a scratch, or other break in the skin. This results in direct exposure to the virus in the infected animal’s saliva, tissue, or other body fluids. If left untreated, rabies is fatal in humans and animals. Therefore, following an exposure, medical treatment and laboratory testing of the infected animal are required for appropriate preventive treatment in humans. If a person does not receive the appropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death.
After any wounds have been addressed, your doctor – in consultation with your local health department – will help you decide if you need treatment known as rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). Decisions to start PEP will be based on your type of exposure, the animal you were exposed to, whether the animal is available for testing or can be held for observation, and laboratory and surveillance information for the geographic area where the exposure occurred.
Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pets, maintaining control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision, staying away from wildlife, washing animal bites or scratches immediately with soap and water, and seeking medical care after potential exposures before symptoms start.
The best thing to do is to never feed or approach a wild animal. Be careful of pets that you do not know. If you see a stray dog or cat, don’t pet it. If any animal is acting strangely, call your local animal control officer for help. Do not try and capture/remove the animal yourself! Some of the behaviors to look for are general sickness, problems swallowing, excessive drool or saliva, an animal that is overly aggressive, an animal that bites at imaginary objects, an animal that appears tamer than you would expect, an animal that’s having trouble moving or may even be paralyzed, and/or a bat that is on the ground.
If you have any questions, please contact our office at 856-935-7510 x8448.