SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - A rabid raccoon was identified by the New Jersey Department of Health Laboratory on April 23. The raccoon attacked a resident's dog in the backyard of a home in the Brunswick Acres development in the area of Paul Avenue on April 17. Animal Control was able to retrieve the raccoon and turn it over to the state laboratory where tests showed the animal was positive for rabies. While this is the third animal in Middlesex County to test positive for the virus, it is the first in South Brunswick Township.
Rabies is caused by a virus which can infect all warm-blooded mammals, including people. 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. Rabies is an enzootic disease for raccoon and bat variants in New Jersey, meaning it is always present, but typically impacts a certain number of animals at any given time. Bats, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs, foxes, cats and dogs represent about 95 percent of animals diagnosed with rabies each year in the United States.
The Middlesex County Office of Health Services is advising residents to follow these guidelines in order to prevent rabies from being transmitted to themselves or their pets:
- Immediately report a bite from a wild or domestic animal to the local health department.
- Wash all animal bite wounds thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible after the bite occurs.
Contamination of open cuts or scratches with the saliva of potentially rabid animals should also be washed off immediately. It is important to consult a physician as soon as possible following any animal bite.
Residents should also report any wild animal showing signs of unusual behavior to the South Brunswick Police Department and avoid all contact. Signs of unusual animal behavior include:
- slow movement
- appearing tame
- looking sickly
- exhibiting problems swallowing
- an increase in saliva
- excessive drooling
- acting aggressively
- difficulty moving
- biting when excited
Residents should also be wary of typically nocturnal animals that are active during the daytime hours. In addition to making sure all family pets are current with their rabies vaccination, residents should also take these steps to keep their yards less inviting to wild animals.
- 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.
Additional information on rabies may be obtained by calling the South Brunswick Health Department at 732-329-4000 ex. 7237 or the South Brunswick Animal Control at 732-329-4000 ex. 7265.