By KAYLA J. MARSH
ABERDEEN — Following the announcement that a local pit bull tested positive for rabies, the Monmouth County Health Department is asking anyone who may have come into contact with pit bull puppies in the Cliffwood section of the township in the last three weeks to contact the department immediately.
“The good news is that word is getting out and people are coming forward, and we encourage more people to do so,” said Laura Kirkpatrick, public information officer for Monmouth County.
According to Kirkpatrick, on Feb. 3, the New Jersey Department of Health confirmed that an Aberdeen family’s pit bull had tested positive for rabies.
“The pit bull did not have a current rabies vaccination,” she said.
Kirkpatrick said at least four dogs and one puppy have been identified to have been in contact with or exposed to the now deceased rabid dog while it may have been shedding the rabies virus.
She said two of the dogs showed signs that they may have been nursing puppies recently, and if they have, the puppies may have been exposed to the virus as well.
“The five dogs have been removed from the residence and will remain in supervised quarantine,” she said.
The dogs will remain under quarantine with the local animal control for the next six months, which Kirkpatrick said is the necessary time period to determine if they have contracted rabies as well.
According to Kirkpatrick, three people have been identified to have been bitten by the rabid dog prior to its death, and another was in close proximity with the animal.
“All four individuals have been referred to their health care providers to begin rabies post-exposure prophylaxis,” she said.
According to a statement released by the county, over the past five years, the Monmouth County Health Department has confirmed 10 cats and only this dog with rabies in Monmouth County.
The last rabid dog was identified in 2008 and only eight dogs have been confirmed with rabies since the virus entered the state in 1989.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus found in the saliva of a rabid animal, such as a skunk, bat, raccoon, fox or groundhog, and is transmitted most commonly through a bite.
Aside from keeping pets up-to-date with their vaccinations, Kirkpatrick said several others things can be done to prevent the virus including: avoiding wildlife and animals you don’t know, keeping pets on a leash and not allowing them to roam, never feeding or touching wild or stray animals, teaching children to tell someone if they were bitten or scratched by an animal, calling your doctor and the local health department if bitten or exposed to saliva or blood of a wild or stray animal, and contacting your veterinarian if your pet was exposed to a wild carnivore.
“This is a reminder to all other residents to check your pet’s vaccination and health records and make sure they are current,” said Christopher Merkel, Monmouth County Public Health Coordinator, in a statement.
“Rabies vaccination of dogs and cats offers a very high level of protection against the virus.”
Kirkpatrick said the investigation is ongoing to determine if additional people and pets may have been exposed and at risk for rabies.
“Right now the investigation is ongoing,” she said. “Officials are talking with residents, gathering information, and we encourage anyone with information or who might have been exposed to come forward.”
The Monmouth County Health Department can be contacted at 732-431-7456, ext. 8580. The department is offering 10 free rabies clinics for pets of county residents from now until April. Dates, times and locations of the clinics are available on the Health Department section of the county’s website at www.VisitMonmouth.com.