Salem County saw a decline in the number of positive rabies cases in 2017 and fewer residents needing treatment for possible exposure to the rabies virus, according to the Salem County Department of Health and Human Services.

Last year, 20 specimens were sent to the state lab for rabies testing and three came back positive. Eight residents required post-exposure treatment. In 2016, 25 specimens were sent to the state lab, and 9 tested positive for rabies. Eleven residents required post-exposure treatment.

The most common way residents become exposed to the rabies virus is when their pets tangle with wildlife that are infected by bats, a common carrier of the disease.

Freeholder Director Melissa DeCastro credited the Department’s Environmental Division staff for the decline in exposures.

“They launched an educational campaign last year to help residents understand how they can accidentally contract rabies and why it is important to get pets vaccinated. They worked closely with local animal control officers and community rabies clinics,” she said. “The free rabies clinics are especially helpful in curtailing rabies in Salem County.”

Freeholder Ben Laury, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, urged residents to remain vigilant about coming into contact with a rabid animal.

“Spring time brings more people outdoors, bats are coming out of hibernation, and wild animals start to wander closer to homes in search of food, “ he said. “When a raccoon tangles with your pet dog, the saliva carries the rabies virus – you don’t need to be bitten. If you try to separate the two animals or examine your pet and the saliva gets on an open cut on your skin, you can contract rabies.”

For more information about rabies, contact Ashley Digerness in the Environmental Division of the Department of Health and Human Services at 856-935-7510 extension 8488.

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