Rabies is a very serious and dangerous virus. There is a lot of information – both fact and fiction – out there to sift through. While we are not affiliated with the Department of Health, we do have a lot of professional expertise in dealing with wild animals, and we are often asked for advice regarding rabies. Here, we offer a brief overview of the State of New Jersey’s official stance on protecting yourself and your family from rabies.
All information on this page is courtesy of the New Jersey State Department of Health.
Rabies is caused by a virus which can infect all warm-blooded mammals, including man, and which is found in the saliva of rabid animals. Bats, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs, foxes, cats, and dogs represent about 95% of animals diagnosed with rabies in the United States. Other animals, such as domestic farm animals, may also become infected, but rodents rarely are.
Rabid animals are usually either aggressive or act as if they are in a stupor. It cannot be stressed strongly enough: stay away from all wild and stray animals which are aggressive or appear to be sick. Also, some wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, and groundhogs, may actually appear normal when infected. These animals should be avoided at ALL times.
Protect yourself from rabies by following these guidelines:
- Have your pet vaccinated against rabies. Pets can become infected with rabies through contact with rabid wild animals. Even indoor-only cats should be vaccinated as it is not uncommon for wild animals, such as bats and raccoons, to get into a home. (In recent years, cats have had a higher incidence of rabies than dogs in the U.S.)
- Do not feed or handle wild animals. Especially avoid contact with all bats, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs. It is illegal in New Jersey to keep these wild animals as pets. Take measures to prevent raccoons or bats from entering homes, barns, garages, and other buildings. Store all trash or pet food kept outdoors in animal-resistant containers.
- Avoid contact with strays or pets other than your own. These animals may bite or scratch, and they may not be vaccinated for rabies. Report strays to your local health department so that they can be taken to a shelter.
- If you are bitten by an unknown animal, immediately cleanse the wound and get prompt medical attention from a physician or emergency room. Report all animal bites to the local health department. Whether wild or domestic, try to confine the animal. If captured, all wild animals must be tested at the state rabies laboratory in Trenton. Domestic animals are kept under observation for 10 days from the time of the bite to ensure that they are free from rabies.
If you are bitten by an unknown animal, immediately cleanse the wound and get prompt medical attention from a physician or emergency room. Report all animal bites to the local health department. Whether wild or domestic, try to confine the animal. If captured, all wild animals must be tested at the state rabies laboratory in Trenton. Domestic animals are kept under observation for 10 days from the time of the bite to ensure that they are free from rabies.
If the animal cannot be captured and tested, a decision to undergo medical preventative rabies treatment is made by the bite victim with the advice of their doctor and the local health department.
Fischer Wildlife Animal Control & Damage Repair recommends all persons who have the confirmed presence of bats in their home be treated by a qualified medical professional, as often people have been bitten or scratched by bats while sleeping. It is not uncommon to be unaware of a bat’s bite or scratch and, as the old saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry!
For further information regarding rabies and rabies testing, please contact your local health department!
Click here to find your local health department in NJ