A bat taken from the basement of a Cherry Hill house, where children were playing, has tested positive for rabies, according to the Camden County Health Department.

The agency was notified Tuesday, September 13, by the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services (NJDHHS) after results returned from the state Public Health and Enviromental Laboratories (PHEL) in Trenton.

Officials did not reveal the identities of the home owners, who found the animal in the basement on September 1, officials said, adding that they did not report any direct contact with the youngsters.

Cherry Hill Animal Control officers took the bat from the house and submitted it to the state lab.

“Although rabies is a serious illness, it can be prevented by early treatment,” said Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the Camden County Health Department.  “If you have been bitten or scratched by a wild animal it is important that you seek immediate medical attention.”

She advises pet owners to take special precautions

  • Keep vaccinations up to date for all dogs, cats, and ferrets
  • Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals.  If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately
  • Contact your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.  They may be unvaccinated and could be infected by the disease.

Rodriguez also issued warnings to avoid contact with feral animals.

  • Enjoy wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, and foxes from afar.  Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or liter.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.  Do not try to nurse sick animals to health.  Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they seem friendly.
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas where they might come in contact with people or pets.
  • When traveling abroad, avoid direct contact with wild animals and be especially careful around dogs in developing countries.  Rabies is common in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  Tens of thousands of people die of rabies each year in these countries.

Rodriguez said interested residents can learn more about rabies through the internet by accessing the information available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page.  Residents can also call the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services at 856-374-6370.