Rabies is caused by a virus which can infect all warm-blooded mammals, including humans. The rabies virus is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and is transmitted by a bite, or possibly by contamination of an open cut. In wild and domestic animals, the rabies virus may affect the part of the brain that regulates aggression, causing the animal to attack without fear or provocation; or become very disoriented and lethargic. In some instances, animals (dogs and cats included) carrying the rabies virus will not show any unusual behavioral warning signs. Rabies in humans can be fatal without prompt post-exposure treatment.
Wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes are much more likely to carry rabies, however, dogs, cats, cattle (cows), or any warm-blooded animal can carry rabies and pass it to humans. People should stay away from all wild and stray animals. Contact the animal control officer for your municipality for assistance with strays and wildlife issues.
If you are bitten or scratched by a domestic or wild animal, clean the wound immediately with soap and water, seek immediate medical attention and report the bite to the Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services at (973) 579-0370. If your pet is bitten by a potentially rabid animal, call your veterinarian immediately and report the incident to the Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services.
The Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services is available during nights, weekends and holidays through the Sheriff's Communications Dispatch at (973) 579-0888.
Sussex County Rabies Clinic Schedule:
You can protect your pet from rabies by getting them the rabies vaccine and making sure all rabies vaccinations are up-to-date. This also applies to indoor pets as they can be exposed to displaced bats. Rabies clinics are offered at various municipalities throughout the year.
Note: Vaccinate only healthy cats and dogs at clinics. Ferrets, rabbits, wolf-hybrids, and other animals will NOT be vaccinated at clinics. Contact your veterinarian for instructions on vaccination of these animals.
Information from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services
What You Should Know About Bats (PDF) Two kinds of bats in our area are often found roosting in colonies inside buildings, the big brown and little brown bats. The big brown bat accounts for over 75 percent of the bat contacts with people and pets and is the bat most often tested for rabies.
Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Questions & Answers Commonly asked questions and answers about rabies and pets, human rabies, wild animals, and rabies risks when traveling.
Bats and Rabies The problem of bat-related rabies, how to handle encounters with bats, and how to "bat-proof" your home.
Just for Kids In the United States, rabies is much more common in wild animals than in pets like cats or dogs. This is because most people who take good care of their pets make sure that their pets get the rabies vaccinations.
Information for Healthcare Professionals Patient history is important to identify a possible exposure to rabies and other encephalitides; however, rabies should never be ruled out based solely on the absence of definite exposure history.