BELMAR, Monmouth County (WABC) -- A New Jersey resident was reportedly bitten by a raccoon in his or her backyard, according to the Monmouth County Health Department, prompting the victim to receive rabies post-exposure treatment.
The suspected raccoon has been captured by the Belmar Police Department with assistance from the Monmouth County SPCA and will be tested for rabies.
Rabies is fatal once symptoms develop, so experts advise residents to take precautions to prevent the spread of rabies by protecting their pets.
"Protecting your pets by keeping them current on their rabies vaccine is an important safeguard between wildlife rabies and human exposure," freeholder and health department liaison Patrick Impreveduto said. "Not only does the vaccine keep your pet safe, but it can help keep you and your family safe as well."
Officials remind residents that rabies in wildlife continues to pose a risk to pets and people.
In addition to vaccinating your pets for rabies, there are several things residents can do to protect themselves and their pets:
-Avoid wildlife and animals you do not know.
-Keep your pet on a leash. Do not allow your pet to roam; it can come in contact with rabid wildlife.
-Never feed or touch wild or stray animals, especially stray cats, bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes or groundhogs.
-Teach your children that they should tell you if they were bitten or scratched by an animal.
-Call your doctor and the local health department if bitten or exposed to saliva or blood of a wild or stray animal.
-Contact your veterinarian if your pet was exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk or other wild carnivore.
"If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention," Monmouth County Public Health Coordinator Christopher Merkel said.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the CDC each year from New Jersey occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks and bats.
The CDC describes that the presence of rabies in all wildlife may be indicated by unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, paralysis, lack of coordination, unusually friendly behavior and/or disorientation.
CDC explains that the rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.
The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache and general weakness or discomfort.
As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.
For more information, call the Monmouth County Health Department at 732-431-7456.