Days after Fox attacks in Lakewood, OCHD warns of potentially dangerous wildlife encounters

After the recent fox attacks in Lakewood, the OCHD is warning residents about the dangers of wildfire encounters.

Heading into the Labor Day weekend many people are looking forward to spending time enjoying the outdoors with friends and family. However, the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) is encouraging residents to remain vigilant of any potential wildlife encounters that can turn dangerous. It’s not uncommon for Ocean County to have a small number of animals test positive for rabies annually and so far in 2022 seven cases have been reported.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system of mammals, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The vast majority of rabies cases reported each year occur in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes, although any mammal can get rabies. Additionally, there is no cure for rabies.

“Living in Ocean County most neighborhoods are shared with an assortment of spectacular wildlife,” said Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “However, residents should enjoy them from a safe distance and to keep a look out for animals demonstrating unusual behavior. These animals are typically very shy of humans so for them to approach an adult, child or family pet appearing sick, wounded – and even friendly or tame – would be uncommon behavior and a possible sign of rabies. That’s why we encourage parents discuss these important signs with their children.”

Additional signs to look for in a rabid animal:
• general sickness
• problems swallowing
• excessive drool or saliva
• an animal that is overly aggressive
• an animal that bites at imaginary objects (sometimes called “fly biting”)
• an animal that appears tamer than you would expect
• an animal that’s having trouble moving or may even be paralyzed
• a bat that is on the ground

The CDC reported that there are typically only about 1 to 3 cases of rabies documented in humans each year. The NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) estimates that approximately 2,500 people in New Jersey receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), due to exposure to known or suspect rabid animals.

Residents are advised to keep in mind the following tips to protect and limit your family and pets from those unwanted wildlife interactions and any potential rabies exposure:

• Animal-proof your house and yard. Make sure all garbage is stored in animal-resistant containers.
• Screen off vents to attics and other areas that could provide shelter for bats and squirrels.
• Vaccinate your cat or dog against rabies. Unvaccinated pets can contract rabies from wildlife and can transfer the disease to humans.
• Never try to pet or approach a wild animal – even if it appears curious or friendly.

What to do if you are bitten by an animal:

• People who are bitten by, or have had contact with saliva from a suspected rabid animal should notify animal control where the animal is located and seek medical care.
• Wash your wound immediately with plenty of soap and water.
• Contact your healthcare provider or hospital emergency department for care and consultation regarding the need for rabies preventative treatment.
• Report the incident to the OCHD at 732-341-9700 ext. 7515.

Regenye added, “It’s something most people don’t necessarily think about while enjoying the outdoors, but a rabid animal can turn up when you least expect it so it’s best to know what to look for and how to keep you and your family safe.”

To make an appointment to have your pet receive a free rabies shot contact the Northern Ocean County Animal Facility in Jackson at 732-657-8086. You may also make an appointment at the Southern Ocean County Animal Facility in Manahawkin. The number is 609-978-0127.

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