MONTGOMERY: Four confirmed cases of rabid animals in township

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By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Within the last month, there have been four confirmed cases of rabid animals reported to the Montgomery Township Health Department – and that is reason for concern, according to Health Officer Stephanie Carey.
That’s because four rabid animals is twice as many as usual, Carey said. Typically, there are two confirmed rabid animals in a year’s time.
“We only test when there is potential human or domestic animal contact with a wild animal (that is suspected to be rabid),” she said.
The four animals that tested positive for rabies were a bat and a feral cat, which were found in Pennington Borough, and a raccoon and a groundhog that were found in Montgomery Township, Carey said.
The Montgomery Township Health Department provides services to Pennington, Hopewell and Rocky Hill boroughs, in addition to the township.
Carey speculated that more suspected rabies cases have been reported this year because of more interaction between animals. More and more people and animals are “out and about” because of the warm weather, which means more potential interaction between them, she said.
“The increase (in rabid animals) is troublesome,” Carey said. “People who come into contact with rabid animals have to go to the hospital emergency room for shots. It’s a serious matter.”
Animals that come into contact with rabid animals also have to get shots from the veterinarian, Carey said. That’s why it’s important to vaccinate pets – especially dogs and outdoor cats – against rabies.
Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the nervous system, and is most often seen in wildlife such as raccoons, bats, skunks, groundhogs and foxes. Domestic animals, such as dogs, cats and ferrets, can get rabies if they are not vaccinated.
“If a rabid animal bites you, or its saliva or tissue gets into your eyes, nose, mouth or any other open wound, you can get rabies. It is fatal, once symptoms begin,” Carey said.
To reduce one’s chances of contracting rabies, Carey suggested avoiding contact with wild animals. Do not let pets roam freely. Cover garbage cans securely and do not leave pet food outside, she said.
Prevent bats from entering the house.
“If you find a bat, do not touch it. Only let it go if you are absolutely sure no people or household pets had any contact with it,” she said.
Carey urged residents to call the Police Department if they see a wild animal that is behaving strangely or acting aggressively. The Police Department will call the Animal Control Officer, who will handle the matter.