ABSECON _ County health officials say an Absecon raccoon captured last week tested positive for rabies and they are warning the public to take the usual precautions to protect their pets and their families from exposure.
The Atlantic County Division of Public Health has reported its sixth confirmed rabies case this year in a raccoon found near the railroad tracks at Ohio Avenue and New Road, about one block south of the White Horse Pike, officials said in a public statement.
The animal was visibly ill with body wounds.
It was collected and sent to the state lab for testing where officials confirmed rabies on Oct. 18.
Rabies is a viral disease that can be fatal if left untreated. Rabies is most common in raccoons and bats, but has also been found in foxes, skunks, cats, groundhogs and other New Jersey wildlife.
Atlantic County reported its first rabies case in 2013 in a Buena Vista raccoon in March. Since then two domestic cats have tested positive, one in HamiltonTownship and a second in EggHarborTownship. A bat in Galloway and HamiltonTownship also tested positive.
There were only three rabies cases in 2012 in Atlantic County but 12 cases in 2011.
Atlantic County Health Officer Patricia Diamond said wild animals should not be handled, captured or kept as pets.
She said all pets should receive rabies vaccinations to protect them and the families who love them.
Residents who find a stray animal on their property should leave it alone until an animal control officer, police officer or other responder can capture or remove it.
Public health officials recommend the following steps to protect your family and pets from rabies:
Make sure your dog or cat’s rabies vaccination is current. Residents may check with their local municipality for the date and location of their annual rabies vaccination clinic. In addition, the Atlantic County Animal Shelter holds a free clinic each month at 240 Old Turnpike Road, Pleasantville. Dogs must be brought on leashes and cats in carriers. For more information, call (609) 485-2345 or visit www.aclink.org/animalshelter.
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 younger than three months not be left outdoors unattended.
Keep your pet on a leash. Roaming pets may come in contact with rabid wildlife.
Teach your children to stay away from wild, stray or aggressive animals.
Never feed or touch wild animals, especially bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, or groundhogs. Do not try to keep these animals as pets.
If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention.
Report all animal bites to the Atlantic County Division of Public Health at (609) 645-5971.
For information, go to www.aclink.org/publichealth or call (609) 645-5971.
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