When Bridgewater resident Patricia Guest stumbled upon an unresponsive raccoon in her back yard, she didn’t hesitate to jump into action: “I own a pet-sitting business and I work in rescue. I’ve been around animals my whole life; it’s my nature to help animals in need.”
After putting on gloves, she gently pushed the animal into a box before transporting it to her car to AnimERge, a 24-hour veterinary hospital in Raritan. Staff members told her that the animal had the potential to be rabid and that they would be sending it to a lab for testing. They gave her a document about what her next steps should be. “I have to admit, I didn’t read it right away,” Guest said.
What she should have done is gone for treatment for her and her four dogs the next day. Four days later, Guest was informed by the New Jersey Department of Health that the raccoon that she touched had tested positive for rabies, and that she and her dogs needed to be treated as soon as possible.
Guest received the Post-Exposure Prophylactic Regimen (PEP), which includes one initial shot, immune-globulin injections based on the patient’s weight, and three additional shots in the days following. “Most people think that the vaccines are getting shots in your stomach, but they’re not,” Guest says. “They’re like tetanus shots — you’re a little sore afterwards but that’s it.”
Her dogs were in the middle of their three-year vaccination, and were taken in for their rabies booster shots the day after the initial contact. Additionally, they will need to be observed for the next 45 days.
Though shaken and exhausted by her ordeal, Guest is looking to educate other people to prevent them from making the same mistakes that she did. “I feel that it’s important for people to know the procedure for what to do and what not to do.”
If you find a suspicious or dead animal, Guest urges you to contact Animal Control or the police department, and to not make the same mistake that she did. “They have the expertise to deal with a potentially dangerous or even a fatal matter,” she said.
Peter Leung of the Bridgewater Department of Health stresses the importance of washing the wounds with soap and water after contact with an infected animal along with scheduling a doctor’s visit. “If you wash yourself or your dog or cat right away, it inactivates the virus right away.”
According to the NJ Department of Health, there have been a total of 250 cases of rabies in New Jersey since 2017.
DO NOT INTERACT WITH A POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS ANIMAL.
Rabies Fact Sheet | Wagging Tail Walkabouts Pet Sitting