Health Dept. seeking those in contact with family dog

ABERDEEN, NJ – The Monmouth County Health Department (MCHD) is seeking area residents who may have been bitten by a dog in the past three weeks to contact the health department immediately.

The Monmouth County Health Department phone number is 732-431-7456, ext. 8580.

Yesterday afternoon, the NJ Department of Health (NJ DOH) confirmed that a family dog from Aberdeen tested positive for rabies. The dog, a pit bull, did not have a current rabies vaccination.

 

Three people have been identified to have been bitten by the dog prior to its death; a fourth person was also in close contact with the dog. All four individuals have been referred to their health care providers to begin rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.

“We are asking that anyone in the Aberdeen area who was bitten or exposed to this family pit bull, contact the Health Department immediately,” said Christopher Merkel, Monmouth County Public Health Coordinator. “We are currently working to identify anyone who may have come in contact with this dog in the last three weeks.”

Several dogs had contact with this dog while it may have been shedding rabies virus and they will be monitored by the MCHD.

The investigation is ongoing to determine if additional people and pets may have been exposed to this dog and are at risk for rabies.

“Rabies in dogs is uncommon in New Jersey,” said Merkel “Over the past five years, MCHD has confirmed 10 cats and only this dog with rabies in Monmouth County.”

According to the NJ DOH, the last rabid dog was identified in 2008; there have only been 8 dogs, including this case, confirmed with rabies since the raccoon variant virus entered the New Jersey in 1989.

“This is a reminder to all other residents to check your pet’s vaccination and health records and make sure they are current,” said Merkel. “Rabies vaccination of dogs and cats offers a very high level of protection against the virus.”

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Dogs and cats who receive an initial rabies vaccination are not considered immunized until 28 days after the vaccine has been administered, therefore it is strongly recommended that any animal newly vaccinated or those too young to receive the vaccine (less than three months) not be left outdoors unattended.

“Protecting your pets by keeping them current on their rabies vaccine is an important buffer between wildlife rabies and human exposure,” said Freeholder John P. Curley, liaison to the MCHD. “Not only does the vaccine keep your pet safe, but it can help keep you and your family safe as well.”

In addition to vaccinating your pets for rabies, there are several things residents can do to protect themselves and their pets:

  • Avoid wildlife and animals you do not know.
  • Keep your pet on a leash. Do not allow your pet to roam; it can come in contact with rabid wildlife.
  • Never feed or touch wild or stray animals, especially stray cats, bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes or groundhogs.
  • Teach your children that they should tell you if they were bitten or scratched by an animal.
  • Call your doctor and the local health department if bitten or exposed to saliva or blood of a wild or stray animal.
  • Contact your veterinarian if your pet was exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk or other wild carnivore.

“If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention,” said Merkel.

According to the CDC, rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the CDC each year from New Jersey occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks and bats.

CDC explains that the rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.

For more information, call the Monmouth County Health Department at 732-431-7456 x 8580.

According to the CDC, the presence of rabies in animals may be indicated by unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, paralysis, lack of coordination, unusually friendly behavior and/or disorientation.