A groundhog collected on June 1 from a farm on Railroad Boulevard in Hamilton Township has tested positive for rabies, becoming the ninth confirmed case of rabies in Atlantic County this year. The county’s previous cases included four skunks, two raccoons, one fox and a cat.
An investigation by the Atlantic County Division of Public Health identified one potential human exposure in a farm worker and one potential animal exposure in a pig that was attacked by the groundhog.
The groundhog was removed by animal control and sent to the state lab for testing where it was confirmed positive for rabies on June 8.
The farm worker was directed to consult his primary care physician and the pig was placed in a strict 6-month confinement and will be monitored monthly.
Rabies is a viral disease that can be fatal if left untreated. It can be transmitted through direct contact with saliva through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth. Most human cases of rabies are the result of a bite from an infected animal.
If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention. All bites should be reported to the Atlantic County Division of Public Health at (609) 645-5971.
A rabies vaccination is recommended for domestic animals to not only protect the pet but also the pet owner and family members who could contract rabies from an infected pet.
The Atlantic County Animal Shelter provides free rabies vaccination clinics each month for both dogs and cats by appointment only at www.aclink.org/animalshelter.
Public health officials also advise residents to teach children to stay away from wild, stray or aggressive animals. Never feed or touch wild animals or try to keep them as pets.
Residents should also ensure trash cans have secure lids to prevent wildlife from foraging for food and not leave pet food outside.
Many animals are also attracted to bird seed.
If you see wildlife that is behaving strangely, especially nocturnal animals such as skunks and raccoons found during daylight hours, do not approach the animal. Instead, call your local Animal Control Officer.
Contact information is available on the county web site at: www.aclink.org/animal-shelter/municipal.asp
For more information about rabies control and precautions to protect your family and your pets, please visit the county web site at www.aclink.org/publichealth or call (609) 645-5971.