A raccoon picked up on the Watershed Institute property has positive for rabies. This is the second wild animal to test positive for rabies within a week in Hopewell Township. The raccoon, who was out during the day and acting lethargic, was found along a hiking trail on the Watershed Institute property by an employee. Watershed Institute staff notified the health department.
Health Officer Robert English and Animal Control Officer Belinda Ogitis took possession of the raccoon and transported it to the Mercer County Wildlife Center for observation and/or treatment. The raccoon’s health continued to deteriorate while under the Wildlife Center’s care, despite the Center staff’s best efforts. The animal was euthanized and submitted for testing at the New Jersey Public Health & Environmental Laboratory March 18, 2019. Test results provided March 19 were positive.
There were no known exposures to this animal. It was tested by order of the Health Officer as a precaution, due to the close proximity of the raccoon to a rabid skunk identified in the area of Wargo Road and Bradford Lane, on March 12.
Rabies is a fatal viral disease that can be prevented by avoiding contact with animals that may be rabid. If a person has significant exposure, getting vaccinated right away can also prevent disease. Rabies canbe spread from the bite of a rabid animal, or when the animal’s saliva contacts a person’s mouth, eyesor an open sore.
Rabies poses a real threat, especially to unvaccinated domestic animals. This incident should serve as a reminder for pet owners to ensure their animals are up-to-date with rabies vaccination. Rabies occurs throughout New Jersey, including Hopewell Township. Bats are the animal most commonly found to have rabies. Skunks, skunks, and unvaccinated domestic animals can also develop rabies. In Hopewell Township, approximately four animals per year have tested positive for rabies. Human rabies cases in the United States are rare.
Behavioral signs of rabid animals, wild or domestic, may include staggering, restlessness, aggression, a change of the tone of their barks or growls, or choking. Passive animals sometimes become fierce and aggressive. Nocturnal animals sometimes appear during the day, as occurred in this instance.
If you or a loved one are bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal, or an animal suspected of having rabies, immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and then seek medical attention. Ask your medical provider to report and coordinate with the Hopewell Township Health Department. Not all exposures require post exposure treatment. Health Department and Animal Control staff will work to locate, capture, and test suspect animals in an effort to definitively identify if the animal is infectious. Your medical provider should call (609) 737-3100. Reporting bites is a legal obligation of exposed individuals and medical professionals to assure any/all actions are taken to protect the individuals involved and the public at large.
Take these steps to protect your family and pets from rabies:
- Make sure your pets and domestic animals are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations;
- Keep children and pets from approaching or touching wild or strange animals.
- Make sure that any openings to your home such as crawl spaces, chimneys, attics, porches or garages are sealed or covered with thick wire screen to prevent entry by wild animals.
- Discourage wild animal foraging by not leaving pet food outside and by securing garbage cans.
- Avoid feeding, touching, or housing stray or wild animals.
- If you see a domestic animal (i.e. cat, dog) that is sick, injured, dead, orphaned or behaving oddly, leave it alone and contact Hopewell Township Animal Control.
- If you see a wild animal (i.e. raccoon, ground hog, skunk), that is sick, injured, orphaned (except fawns) or behaving oddly, leave it alone and contact Hopewell Township Animal Control. Do NOT handle the animal yourself. If possible, keep an eye on wandering animals to assists animal control with finding animal for capture.
Animal Control Daytime Number (M-F – 8:30-4:30) – (609) 537-0278o Nights & Weekends – Call Police Non-Emergency – (609) 737-3100
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