EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Enzootic. That's the word used to describe the spread of a virus or infectios disease between species, even between animals and people. Rabies is an enzootic disease, passing through the the saliva of a rabid animal and transmitted by a bite, or possibly by the contamination of an open cut. As stated by the State Public Health Veternarian Dr. Colin T. Campbell, "Symptoms can develop anywhere from 12 days to six months after a bite. Symptoms include fever, headache, weakness, and discomfort at the site of the bite, before signs of mental impairment and encephalitis begin." In the past few months, there have been ten cases of rabies in Middlesex County - cases which have included an infectious raccoon in Monroe and two rabid bats here in East Brunswick.
A groundhog tested recently positive for rabies in the Township of Old Bridge in the vicinity of Pomona Blvd and Raritan Blvd. This is the first positive rabies specimen in Old Bridge this year, and the tenth (10) in Middlesex County. As confirmed by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, groundhogs are the only rodents that may be frequently submitted to state health department because of a suspicion of rabies.
According to statistcs provided by the New Jersey Department of Health, there were 7,178 cases of rabies diagnosed in New Jersey between 1989 and 2014. Of these, 5,233 cases involved infected raccoons. Rabies has been carried by several types of animals in Middlesex County, including groundhogs and foxes, but the two main carriers have been raccoons and skunks. Among domestic animals, cats have accounted for 90% of the domestic animal cases in New Jersey since 1989. For the last 5 years there has been an average of 16 cats infected with rabies annually. By contrast, only 7 dogs have acquired rabies in the last fifteen years statewide.
As a response to concerns about rabies, townships throughout the state have provided rabies clinics to vaccinate domestic animals against rabies infection. On Saturday, November 7, East Brunswick will hold a rabies clinic at the Community Center.