Health Department Issues Rabies Advisory

MONROE—Middlesex County Public Health Department Director-Health Officer, David A. Papi indicated that a raccoon tested positive for rabies in Monroe, Middlesex County, in the vicinity of Gravel Hill – Spotswood Road and Monroe Boulevard.

This is the fifth rabid animal reported within Middlesex County for 2009 and the fourth rabid animal reported in the municipality of Monroe.


On July 11 the Monroe Animal Control Officer responded to a report that a raccoon which appeared sick, with wobbly gait, and unafraid of humans or domestic animals went into a resident’s backyard.   The raccoon was subsequently put down by the property owner, an off duty police officer. The raccoon was then sent to the State Laboratory for testing and it was reported today that the animal tested positive for rabies.

The property owners have an outdoor pet cat whose vaccination status was unknown at the time of the incident. It is unknown whether the cat had any exposure to the raccoon, therefore as a precaution the Middlesex County Public Health Department instructed the owner to place the cat under a 6 month observation period.  The owner has been instructed to have the animal examined by a veterinarian after the 6-month observation period and immediately notify the department if the cat shows any symptoms of rabies during the observation period.  The department also advised the owner to consult their physician.  Additionally, the department is currently distributing rabies advisory flyers and fact sheets in the area.

Papi stated, “The Middlesex County Public Health Department continues to monitor rabies cases within the county.  Residents should report wild animals showing signs of unusual behavior to their local Animal Control Officer.  Additionally, it is recommended that residents should avoid contact with wild animals and immediately report any bites from wild or domestic animals to your local health department and consult a physician as soon as possible.  Finally, be sure that all family pets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations and licenses.”

Rabies is caused by a virus which can infect all warm-blooded mammals, including man. The rabies virus is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and is transmitted by a bite, or possibly by contamination of an open cut.  New Jersey is enzootic for raccoon and bat variants of rabies.  Bats, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs, foxes, cats, and dogs represent about 95% of animals diagnosed with rabies in the United States.

Rabies Prevention Guidelines
The Middlesex County Public Health Department is advising residents to follow these guidelines in order to prevent rabies from being transmitted to themselves or their pets:

1. 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.

2. Immediately report any wild animal showing signs of unusual behavior.

Signs of unusual animal behavior could be that the animal may:
• 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

Residents should avoid any contact with the animal and call your local animal control officer or local police department.

3. Be sure that all family pets are up to date on their rabies vaccination.  If unsure please call your veterinarian.  Call your local health department for free rabies vaccination clinic availability.

4. 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 and keep yard free of garbage and debris.

5. Do not feed or handle wild animals.

6. Avoid contact with stray animals or pets other than your own.

7. Try to prevent your pets from coming into contact with wild animals.

8. Screen off vents to attics and other areas that could provide shelter for bats.

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