CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — As of July 2019, three confirmed cases of rabies have been found in both domestic and wild animals in Cape May County this year.
The first positive was a horse, tested Jan. 9, in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township.
The second positive was a skunk, tested June 26, from the Kimble’s Beach area of Middle Township.
The third positive was a bat, tested July 31, from the Seaville section of Upper Township. It was was found inside a home.
“This is a reminder to all other residents to check your pet’s vaccination and health records and make sure they are current,” said health officer Kevin Thomas. Rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats offer a very high level of protection against the virus.
Rabies is a fatal disease in humans and any animal bite should be taken seriously. The rabies virus is shed in the saliva of animals that are infected with the virus. If an animal bites you, wash the wound, seek medical attention immediately, and notify the Cape May County Department of Health and your municipal animal control agency. If you are exposed to a rabid or suspected rabid animal, you must receive rabies shots as soon as possible to prevent the disease. If your pet has contact with a wild animal, contact your veterinarian and the Department of Health right away.
“Protecting your pets by keeping them current on their rabies vaccine is an important buffer between wildlife rabies and human exposure,” said Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson. “Not only does the vaccine keep your pet safe, but it can help keep you and your family safe as well.”
The next upcoming free rabies clinics for Cape May County:
• Middle Township, 2-3 p.m. Sept. 21, at Middle’s Public Works Garage, 400 W. Mechanic St., Cape May Court House
• Upper Township, 1-3 p.m. Oct. 19, at Shore Veterinary Animal Hospital, 73 Hope Corson Road, Seaville.
In addition, the public can check with their local PetSmart stores for their upcoming discounted vaccination clinics.
In addition to vaccinating your pets for rabies, there are several precautionary measures residents can take to protect themselves and their pets:
• Avoid wildlife and domestic animals that you are not familiar with.
• Never feed or touch wild or stray animals, especially cats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, groundhogs or bats. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bats are responsible for roughly 7 in 10 rabies deaths among people who are infected with the rabies virus in the United States, possibly because people may not know of the risk bats pose. Bats are of particular concern because their teeth are so tiny that a bite may not be felt or even leave a noticeable mark. If a person has any physical contact with a bat or finds a bat in the room of a sleeping person or unattended child, the bat should be captured safely and submitted for rabies testing. If the bat is not available for rabies testing, the person who came into contact with the animal should receive rabies prevention shots.
• Keep your pet on a leash. Do not allow your pet to roam; it can come in contact with rabid wildlife.
• Teach your children that they should always 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 of a wild or stray animal.
• Contact your veterinarian if your pet was exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk or other wild carnivore.
For more information on animal rabies call Kittie Walton at 609 465-1210, or see nj.gov/health/cd/topics/rabies.shtml. To receive information on public health news and local events, like the Cape May County Department of Health on Facebook.