Rabies cases continue to spread in NJ
At least 10 cases of rabies have been reported in Middlesex County in recent weeks, but numerous cases of the deadly disease have also been confirmed all over the Garden State since the beginning of the year.
“It is relatively prevalent here, every year we see anywhere between 300 to 350 cases among New Jersey animals, mostly in raccoons and bats, but we also have seen them in skunks and groundhogs and foxes,” said state Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan.
Tan said some domestic animals can also become infected.
“We also see rabies cases particularly in cats, they’re the most commonly identified domestic animal with rabies, however all mammals are susceptible to the disease," Tan said.
Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of rabid animals, usually in the form of a bite.
Tan said vaccination programs are the cornerstone for preventing rabies in most pets.
“So it’s really, really important to make sure that those pets, the cats and the dogs are up to date on rabies vaccinations," Tan said.
Tan said fortunately in New Jersey, human cases of rabies are rare.
“Since 1949 there have only been two cases of rabies that developed among New Jersey residents who were not treated for the disease,” she said. “They were both from bat bites –and both of those people died.”
She said last year, someone who had traveled abroad and was bitten by a rabid dog did not get treatment and that individual died as well.
“Pretty much, people when they become infected with rabies, if they’re left untreated, usually do die,” Tan said.
She adds rabid bat attacks are rare, but if people think “they might have been bitten by a bat or they find a bat in their room and they’re not sure about whether or not they’re been bitten, that first and foremost it’s important to seek medical evaluation. Rabies is a really serious disease because if you’re untreated the rabies virus is going to attack the nervous system and almost always cause death.”