Rabies Control Program

Disease & Symptoms
Rabies is a communicable disease that is caused by a neurotropic virus that is usually transmitted by the bite of an infected warm-blooded animal. The disease is often fatal characterized by:
  • Delirium with death due to paralysis
  • Fear of water
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Malaise
  • Paralysis
Virus Introduction & Process
The rabies virus is introduced by the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Onset of rabies in humans is usually 3-8 weeks, sometimes as short as 9 days depending on the location of the wound and its distance from the brain. In dogs and cats, the onset of symptoms will occur usually within 3 to 7 days. This is why dogs and cats are quarantined for a 10-day period. A staff member of this department will check on the animal after the 10 days and will release the animal if it is still alive. The person bitten is then notified that the animal has survived the quarantine period and is therefore, free from rabies.

Local Rabies Issues
Cape May County experienced a rabies epizootic outbreak in 1995. There were no cases of rabies in 1998, 1999 and 2000. However, in 2001 there were 3 cases of rabies, all in Dennis Township. Thereafter, there have been no cases of rabies.

This department assists the municipalities in supplying vaccine, syringes, registration forms and brochures for the rabies immunization clinics for dogs and cats. This department also annually inspects kennels, shelters and pet shops. Please check with your local municipality for the date of the free rabies clinic. It is important that all dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies.

Physicians are required to notify the Department of Health of animal bites to as soon possible. Download and complete the Physician Reporting Form (PDF) and submit it to the Department of Health. Complete forms can be faxed to 609-465-6564.

For more information on rabies, visit the National Rabies Management Program.