NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–The county government announced that a raccoon found in the city’s Fifth Ward tested positive for rabies, the first rabid animal found in New Brunswick this year.
“On Saturday, September 17, 2016, the Animal Control Officer for New Brunswick responded to a call concerning a raccoon that was found to be acting strangely in the vicinity of Laurel Place and Somerset Street,” reads the announcement from the Middlesex County Office of Health Services.
According to the statement, the raccoon was sent to the New Jersey State Department of Health Laboratory for testing and it tested positive for rabies on September 21.
“There are no known human or animal exposures to the raccoon,” read the announcement, which was paired with the alert about a bat found in Plainsboro that also tested positive.
“There was one person who was exposed to the bat and they were notified by the Middlesex County Office of Health Services to speak to their physician regarding their exposure,” read the statement.”
“Rabies is caused by a virus which can infect all warm-blooded mammals, including man,” says the county office, adding that the virus “is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and is transmitted by a bite, or possibly by contamination of an open cut.”
According to the statement, bats, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs, foxes, cats, and dogs represent about 95% of animals diagnosed with rabies in the country.
The Office of Health Services stressed the following “guidelines” be followed to help avoid people or their pets contracting the disease:
- Immediately report a bite from a wild or domestic animal to your local health department.
- Wash animal bite wounds thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible after the bite.
- Contamination of open cuts or scratches with saliva of potentially rabid animals should also be washed off immediately.
- Consult a physician as soon as possible.
- Immediately report any wild animal showing signs of unusual behavior.
The rabid raccoon was the 19th rabid animal reported in the county in 2016, and the rabid bat was the 20th of the year.
Authorities said that residents should report wild animals showing signs of unusual behavior to their local police department.
“Additionally, it is recommended that residents should avoid contact with wild animals and immediately report any bites from wild or domestic animals to their local health department and consult a physician as soon as possible.”
Signs of unusual animal behavior could include animals that:
- Move slowly
- May act as if it is tame
- Appear sick
- Have problems swallowing
- Have an increase of saliva
- Have increased drooling
- Act aggressive
- Have difficulty moving
- Have paralysis
- Bite at everything if excited
According to the county, residents should “avoid any contact with the animal and call your local animal control officer or local police department.”
Additional tips included:
- Be sure that all family pets are up to date on their rabies vaccination.
- Animal proof your home and yard.
- Make sure all garbage containers have tight fitting lids
- Do not leave pet food or water outside
- Do not allow rainwater to collect in outdoor containers or equipment
- Keep yard free of garbage and debris.
- Do not feed or handle wild animals.
- Avoid contact with stray animals or pets other than your own.
- Try to prevent your pets from coming into contact with wild animals.
- Screen off vents to attics and other areas that could provide shelter for bats.
If you are unsure whether your pet needs a vaccination, the county encourages you to “please call your veterinarian.”
“Call your local health department for free rabies vaccination clinic availability,” reads the statement.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.