BRICK – The sun was shining and temperatures were in the mid-50s last Sunday morning, so the long line for free rabies shots became a social event for pets and their owners outside the maintenance building at the Drum Point Sports Complex.
The annual event, organized by Township Clerk Lynnette Iannarone, is sponsored by the township, who provided the manpower, and the Ocean County Health Department, who provided 500 doses of the rabies vaccines.
Rabies shots were available from 10 a.m. until noon. By the end of the day, a total of 359 dogs and 63 cats had been vaccinated.
The township always holds the free rabies clinic in January because township pet licenses are due in January, Iannarone said.
Pet owners in groups of 25 to 30 are normally called with a bullhorn so they can remain in their cars if it’s cold or raining, but since the weather was mild, no one was waiting in their cars, Iannarone said.
The township Parks Department sets up the area in the building for the clinic, and Department of Public Works employees Philip Rinaldi and John Lolla served as unofficial “vet techs” for veterinarian, Dr. Melissa Rahn of Adamston Veterinary Clinic.
Dr. Rahn said it is important for dogs and cats to get their rabies shots, evidenced by a 6-year-old boy in Florida who died last week after getting scratched by a rabies-infected bat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals transmitted by the saliva or tissue of an infected animal, usually through a bite or scratch. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the CDC each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes.
The virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Early symptoms (which mimic other illnesses) include fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort.
“Any warm-blooded animal can carry rabies, but dogs are the number one mammal who are exposed to humans,” Dr. Rahn explained.
Raccoons are known to carry the virus in the wild because they are a tough animal, Rahn said.
“If they’re attacked by another animal, they’ll survive the initial attack because they have sharp teeth and claws, and they can live long enough to transmit the virus,” she said.
According to the Ocean County Board of Health, some 60,000 people worldwide die from rabies each year. The OCHD has clinics offering pre-exposure rabies vaccinations for anyone employed in a high-risk occupation of becoming infected with rabies.
The CDC recommends getting treatment after any bite from a wild animal because treatment is effective almost 100 percent of the time. Fewer than 10 people have survived an untreated rabies bite, they said.
Treatment in past years required 21 painful shots in the stomach with a long needle, but now the treatment is one shot of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) given near the site of the bite or scratch as soon as possible, followed by four doses over 14 days of the rabies vaccine given as injections in the arm.