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The Cape May County Department of Health encourages residents to vaccinate their pets against rabies. The warning comes after a skunk tested positive for rabies on Wednesday in the Cape May Courthouse section of Middle Township.

“This is a reminder to all other residents to check your pet’s vaccinations and medical records and make sure they’re up to date,” Cape May County Health Officer Kevin Thomas said in an open letter released by the county’s health department on Wednesday.

Rabies is a fatal disease of humans and animals, transmitted through the saliva of infected people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a case of rabies almost always ends in death.

All animal bites should be taken seriously and people should wash their wounds and seek medical attention immediately if they are bitten by an animal. Those who have been bitten by the animal are also asked to report the incident to their municipal animal control authorities and the county health department. Those who have been exposed in any way to the saliva or blood of wild or stray animals are also asked to call their doctor and the local health department.

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Wednesday’s letter also warns that any contact of anyone’s pet with a wild animal should be reported to a veterinarian immediately, as well as to the county health department, especially if they have been exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk or any wild predator. .

“Protecting your pets through timely rabies vaccination is an important buffer between wild animal rabies and human exposure,” Cape May County Commissioner Geoffrey Pearson said in a letter. “A vaccine not only keeps your pet safe, it can help protect you and your family.”

In addition to the cases in Cape May County, several cases of animal rabies have been reported this year in Atlantic County, including one in a Northfield raccoon and another in a Pleasantville cat.

People who have been exposed to an animal they suspect is rabid should start vaccinating against rabies as soon as possible.

According to the county health department, the vaccine is very effective in preventing rabies in dogs and cats. The CDC notes that the vaccine can prevent rabies in humans if administered after exposure to the virus. Those who have not previously been vaccinated against rabies and suspect they have been exposed to the virus are usually instructed by the CDC to receive four shots of the vaccine over two weeks.

For those who have been vaccinated in the past and later exposed to the rabies virus, two injections of the vaccine are usually required.

The County Department of Health is also urging vulnerable people to take several other steps to prevent the spread of rabies:

• Avoid unfamiliar animals.

• Teach children to tell parents or guardians if they are bitten or scratched by an animal.

• Do not feed or touch wild or roaming animals, especially roaming bats, cats, foxes, marmots, raccoons, or skunks. The letter warned that rabid bats were particularly dangerous, as bats were not generally considered a source of risk for rabies, and their bites could be invisible due to their small teeth. Anyone who has been exposed to a bat must capture that bat and then subject it to rabies testing. If the bat cannot be tested for rabies, any person who has been in contact with the bat should begin a course of rabies vaccination. The letter cites CDC statistics that bats are responsible for about 70% of rabies deaths in the United States. The CDC’s rabies web page states that dogs are carriers of rabies in other parts of the world, and most rabies deaths worldwide are caused by dog ​​bites.

Every year, 5,000 cases of rabies in animals are reported to the CDC, with more than 90% occurring in wild animals.

Human cases of rabies are rare in the United States, with the CDC reporting one to three cases each year in the country. Human death from rabies usually occurs in those who do not seek emergency medical care for rabies. He cited animal control, pet vaccination campaigns and awareness programs as important reasons for the decline in rabies deaths over the past five decades.

The letter from the county health department said that anyone who wants to learn more about rabies should visit http://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/rabies.shtml or call Kitty Walton at (609) 465-1210. The letter recommends that people like the Cape May County Department of Health on Facebook get more information about public health.

Contact Chris Doyle

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