4/13/2011 - Health Dept: Spring Wildlife Rabies Reminder

Spring Wildlife Rabies Reminder
As we and our pets all go outdoors to enjoy the beautiful spring weather, the Hackensack Health Department reminds residents to be sure to license and vaccinate your pets against rabies. Both cats and dogs should be vaccinated against rabies. Since the raccoon rabies variant entered New Jersey in 1989, cats have accounted for about 90% of the domestic animal cases and are considered the terrestrial species of highest risk to transmit the disease to humans. Vaccinating pets creates a barrier to stop the chain of rabies infection from wildlife to pet to human. Residents can have their pets vaccinated for FREE at the Bergen County Animal Shelter, 100 United Lane, Teterboro, New Jersey. Call 201-229-4601 for the vaccination program schedule or go to their program calendar at http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/bcas/Calendar.aspx. Pet license applications are available by calling our office at 201-646-3967 and on the City of Hackensack web site www.hackensack.org.

Rabies Quick Facts*
During the first quarter of 2011, 66 terrestrial animals and 1 bat were confirmed to be infected with rabies, for a total of 67 animal cases. The number of total animal rabies cases represents a 16% increase over the first quarter of 2010, attributed to 15 more rabid raccoons identified in 2011. During this period, 15 raccoons and 2 skunks were identified in Bergen County, which accounted for over 25% of all the rabies cases confirmed statewide.

Rabies in humans is rare in the USA, with usually 1-2 human cases per year. The most common source of human rabies in the USA is bats. Bats have increasingly been implicated as wildlife reservoirs in the transmission of rabies to humans. Among the 19 naturally occurring cases of rabies in humans from 1997-2006, 17 (90%) were associated with bats. Three of the 17 cases were bitten by a bat, 11 either handled or had direct contact with bats but had no known bites and 3 reported no encounters with bats. These findings suggest that limited or seemingly insignificant physical contact with rabid bats may result in transmission of rabies virus to humans, even without a definite history of a bite. In 2009, 1188 bats were submitted for rabies testing at New Jersey’s Public Health and Environmental Laboratory with only 32 (2.7%) confirmed positive for rabies. Bat activity in New Jersey begins in the spring, when bats break hibernation, and continues through the fall when they return to hibernation.

New Jersey Human Rabies History
A Warren County, New Jersey man died of rabies on October 23, 1997, apparently from contact with bats in his home in July. There was no known history of the patient being bitten or scratched, but he did remove several bats from his residence using "rags" over his hands to protect himself. This was the first human case of rabies in New Jersey since 1971, when a person who was bitten by a rabid bat refused to complete rabies treatment (post exposure prophylaxis) and eventually developed the disease and died. Bites and other potential rabies exposures from bats pose a challenge to both officials and medical care providers, because bat bites may be less severe, heal rapidly, and are therefore, more difficult to find or recognize than bites inflicted by larger mammals.

Have your pets vaccinated for FREE at the Bergen County Animal Shelter, 100 United Lane, Teterboro, New Jersey, 201-229-4601 or see http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/bcas/Calendar.aspx for their rabies vaccination program schedule.

*Source – New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services – Infectious & Zoonotic Disease Program