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Clifton Health Department Issues A Rabies Alert

By on July 16, 2013

Rabid Skunk picked up in area of Witherspoon Road

CLIFTON, NJ - The Clifton Health Department issued a Rabies Alert to residents who may have had contact with a rabid skunk found in the area of Witherspoon Road, Clifton, New Jersey.

The skunk appeared sick and was first reported to the Clifton Health Department on Monday, July 8th.  The animal was picked up by Clifton’s Animal Control Division and tested by the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services Public Health Laboratories, which confirmed that the skunk was positive for rabies.   Anyone who thinks that he/she or a pet may have had contact with this skunk should contact the Clifton Health Department immediately at 973-470-5760.

Anyone bitten by a rabid animal, or having close contact with its saliva, needs to receive immediate rabies vaccination.  Direct contact with wild or stray animals, even baby animals, is always unwise.  Parents should instruct children to refrain from touching unfamiliar animals and to immediately tell an adult if they have been bitten or scratched by an animal.  “Residents should not panic, but should readily recognize the signs of a rabid animal,” said John E. Biegel, III, Health Officer for the City of Clifton.  Signs of rabies in animals include:

•            changes in an animal’s behavior

•            general sickness

•            problems swallowing

•            an increase in drool or saliva or “frothing at the mouth”

•            wild animals that appear abnormally tame or sick

•            animals that may bite at everything if excited

•            difficulty moving or paralysis

•            death

“Pets coming in contact with wild animals are at risk of exposure to rabies.  Vaccination (and licensing when required) of domestic pets, including dogs and cats, are key elements in rabies control,” added Mr. Biegel.

To avoid rabies, the Clifton Health Department advises:

•            Avoid direct contact with unfamiliar animals:

Enjoy wild animals (raccoons, bats, foxes) from afar.  Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.

•            Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.  Do not try to nurse sick animals to health.  Report a sick animal to the health department at 973-470-5760.

•            Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.  “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn.

•            Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.

It is also crucial to be a responsible pet owner.  Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets.  This requirement is important not only to keep your pets from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of protection to you, if your animal is bitten by a rabid wild animal.  Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals.  If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.   Finally, spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.

If you suspect that you or a family member have come into contact with a rabid animal, please contact your physician, report to a local Emergency Department, or contact the Clifton Health Department to ensure that you receive proper treatment.  When administered early enough and before symptoms appear, rabies treatment is 100% effective.  Once symptoms occur, the disease is almost always fatal.

Residents are encouraged to keep a lookout and to report any suspicious or sick  animals such as bats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, dogs or cats to Animal Control IMMEDIATELY BY CALLING 973-470-5760. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CAPTURE OR HANDLE THE ANIMAL.