OCEAN COUNTY – The Ocean County Health Department urges pet owners – especially those whose pets spend time outside during the summer months – to get their pets’ rabies vaccinations updated. Pets can encounter wild or stray animals that carry the disease; Ocean County has three reported cases so far involving a raccoon, a skunk and a cat.
“There are some very serious health risks associated with being bitten by a rabid animal,” said Daniel E. Regenye, the health department’s public health coordinator. “While many stray animals and wildlife may look adorable, any stray animal may pose the risk of being positive for rabies and should not be approached due to the unpredictability of a rabid animal. With the season upon us for the birth of many kittens, it is important to remember that stray kittens are also not always harmless. Our residents and visitors are urged to take appropriate precautions for their own safety and contact their local animal control should they notice stray animals and wildlife in their neighborhood acting strangely, foaming from the mouth, dragging rear legs or being aggressive.”
Rabies is transmitted through bites from infected animals’ saliva. Laboratory tests can determine if a human or animal is rabid. Testing can save people from unnecessary medical treatment if the animal was, in fact, not rabid.
“If a person is bit by a cat or dog it is very important that animal control authorities are made aware in order to capture the animal to commence a 10-day observation period to determine the potential for rabies. But if the animal is suspected to be rabid and is not captured, medical attention should immediately be sought to determine the need for treatment,” Regenye said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said rabies is 100 percent preventable in humans with proper medical care. However, if allowed to develop, there is no known cure and rabies is fatal.
Anyone who encounters a suspected infected animal should contact local animal control immediately to report what was observed. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately.
The county’s animal shelters offer rabies clinics. The Northern Ocean County Animal Facilities in Jackson holds clinics the first and third weeks each month. The Southern Ocean County Animal Facilities in Stafford holds its clinics the second and fourth weeks of the month.
For more information on rabies and its prevention, visit phu2.org.