A bat found in the picnic area near the woods in Rosedale Park on April 24th has tested positive for rabies. The bat was flying erratically, fell to the ground, and was turned into the Mercer County Wildlife Center. The bat was submitted for testing at the New Jersey Public Health & Environmental Laboratory on April 27th. Test results provided to Township Health Officer Dawn Marling on April 28th were positive.
Anyone who may have had contact with the bat should immediately contact their healthcare provider. Rabies is spread from animals to humans, mainly through bites, but also when an animal’s saliva contacts a person’s mouth, eyes or an open sore. If a person has significant exposure, getting vaccinated right away can prevent disease. People who did not touch the bat are not at risk of developing rabies.
Rabies is a fatal viral disease that can be prevented by avoiding contact with animals that may be rabid. Rabies poses a real threat, especially to unvaccinated domestic animals. This incident should serve as a reminder for pet owners to ensure their animals are up-to-date with rabies vaccination. Rabies occurs throughout New Jersey, including Hopewell Township. Raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and unvaccinated cats and dogs are among the animals that can also develop rabies. In Hopewell Township, there was 1 rabies case during 2020 and 257 total cases in New Jersey (67 among bats and 190 among other animals). Human rabies cases in the United States are rare.
To prevent the spread of rabies, the community should make sure their pets are up-to-date with their rabies vaccines and avoid handling wildlife. Although most bats pose no risk of rabies, a bat that behaves unusually, such as lying on the ground or being active during the daytime is concerning and people should not attempt to handle it but instead contact Hopewell Township Animal Control right away.
Behavioral signs of rabid animals, wild or domestic, may include staggering, restlessness, aggression, a change of the tone of their barks or growls, or choking. Passive animals sometimes become fierce and aggressive. Nocturnal animals sometimes appear during the day, as occurred in this instance.
If you or a loved one are bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal, or an animal suspected of having rabies, immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and then seek medical attention. Ask your medical provider to report and coordinate with the Hopewell Township Health Department. Not all situations require post-exposure treatment. Health Department and Animal Control staff will work to locate, capture, and test suspect animals in an effort to definitively identify if the animal is infectious. Your medical provider should call (609) 737-3100. Reporting bites is a legal obligation of exposed individuals and medical professionals to assure any/all actions are taken to protect the individuals involved and the public at large.
Take these steps to protect your family and pets from rabies:
- Make sure your pets and domestic animals are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations;
- Keep children and pets from approaching or touching wild or strange animals.
- Make sure that any openings to your home such as crawl spaces, chimneys, attics, porches or garages are sealed or covered with thick wire screen to prevent entry by wild animals.
- Discourage wild animal foraging by not leaving pet food outside and by securing garbage cans.
- Avoid feeding, touching, or housing stray or wild animals.
- If you see a domestic animal (i.e. cat, dog) that is sick, injured, dead, orphaned or behaving oddly, leave it alone and contact Hopewell Township Animal Control.
- If you see a wild animal (i.e. raccoon, ground hog, skunk), that is sick, injured, orphaned (except fawns) or behaving oddly, leave it alone and contact Hopewell Township Animal Control. Do NOT handle the animal yourself. If possible, keep an eye on wandering animals to assists animal control with finding animal for capture.
Animal Control Daytime Number (M-F – 8:30-4:30) – (609) 537-0278
Nights & Weekends – Call Police Non-Emergency – (609) 737-3100
For additional information on bats and rabies, please visit:
Dawn Marling, MPH