Animal Control: Waging the war on rabies

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    WEST MILFORD-Left untreated, a person infected with rabies faces a horrible death in less than two weeks. That fact, coupled with rabies being an ongoing threat in the mountains and forests of West Milford, results in a constant battle, usually ending in a draw. On the firing line in the fight is Beverly Lujbli, the town's animal control officer, who says rabies was first detected here some 15 years ago. The principal vector is raccoons, and it is the raccoon strain is the principal one found, along with that of bats, in the Garden State, according to Dr. Colin Campbell of the state Department of Health. Other animals that regularly contract rabies include woodchucks or groundhogs. That's why it's so important to vaccinate pets, says Lujbli. All mammals can become infected with rabies and the infection passed on in the saliva of an animal bite. The health department here holds individual clinics for dogs and cats. However, it's also possible for the many horses in West Milford to be infected, and Lujbli says horse owners regularly have their animals inoculated with rabies vaccine through private veterinarians. Surprisingly, animals like chipmunks, squirrels, mice and opossum have a lower incidence of rabies infection, says Lujbli, who says some experts believe variations in body temperature may be responsible. "It is important for animal owners to know that the State of New Jersey now recommends that dogs be re-vaccinated every two years rather than the previous three year requirement. "This will ensure that there is no lapse in your pet's protection against this deadly disease." All animals are different, and its impossible to tell what the level of protection is in a particular pet nearing time for a new rabies shot, she said. While 2004 has been remarkably free of rabies in this 80-square-mile town, there was one case reported in 2003. That's why Lujbli, and health officials throughout the state, continue to wage war on this elusive, but deadly disease.