New Jersey Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health Memo: Updated Guidance on the Management of Domestic Animal Rabies Exposures

Updated Guidance on the Management of Domestic Animal Rabies Exposures

Please be advised: the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) has updated guidance on the Management of Domestic Animal Rabies Exposures. Small but significant amendments were made to the Rabies Advisory Notice. The updated guidance is available on the NJDOH website at: .

Rabies is an acute viral encephalomyelitis caused by lyssaviruses from the Rhabdovirus family. Lyssaviruses are usually confined to one major reservoir species in a given geographic area, although spillover to other species is common. Rabies is endemic in New Jersey most often affecting bats, raccoons, fox, skunks, cats, and to a lesser extent domestic livestock. The disease is invariably fatal once clinical signs appear.

Transmission is almost always by introduction of virus-laden saliva into the tissues, usually by the bite of a rabid animal. The virus is shed in the saliva several days before the onset of clinical signs. Suspect cases should be handled with care and isolated from other animals. Rabid animals of all species usually exhibit typical signs of central nervous system disturbance with owners first noticing their animal “doesn’t seem right”. As the illness progresses, nervous system impairment becomes more obvious. Affected animals may or may not show signs of aggression. Livestock often develop the “dumb” form of the disease which may consists of depression, walking in circles, eating non-edible items, “star gazing,” and/or other abnormal behaviors.

As with other diseases affecting livestock neurological systems, rabies MUST be reported to the State Veterinarian at (609) 671-6400 within 48 hours of diagnosis and a neurologic disease worksheet submitted for each case reported. The neurologic disease worksheet is available on the NJ Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (AHDL) website: .

Possible rabies infection in any species must be reported to the local Health Department or the New Jersey Department of Health at (609)-826-4872.

The NJ AHDL is available to assist with all your testing needs, including pathology services. For inquiries, contact the NJ Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory. Phone: (609) 406-6999; Fax: (609) 671-6414 web: .