Sometimes you go down a bit of a rabbit hole and start looking things up about a subject that makes news. Sometimes what you find is a thing you feel compelled to share.

This is one of those times.

Camden County has had a third raccoon test positive for rabies since April. The latest case began June 30 when a Camden resident reported an unhealthy raccoon lurking in their backyard. A city animal control officer was able to trap it and send it off for testing.

There was another in Waterford a few days prior and one in Gloucester Township at the end of April. No humans were exposed in these cases but some family pets had been encountered.

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Thinking about if a person had been exposed how long they would have to start a course of rabies shots before the disease would set in, I started researching. Don’t take this as medical advice. This is the same internet research anyone can do and I’m not a doctor. Hell, I don’t even play one on TV.

But what I read shocked me.


I always assumed you had to get rabies shots as soon as possible, which is recommended, because I thought the fatal disease would take hold in a week or two. Yes, it can certainly happen that way. But not always.

From a CDC website:

“Rabies is a serious illness that almost always results in death. Rabies virus infects the central nervous system. Symptoms may occur from days to years after exposure to the virus and include delirium (confusion), abnormal behavior, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), and insomnia (difficulty sleeping), which precede coma and death.”


That couldn’t be true, could it? So, I started cross-referencing and sure enough I found this information over and over.

Here’s just one example:

“The incubation period in humans is typically between 20 and 90 days, although incubation periods as short as 4 days and longer than 6 years have been documented.”

So yes, years.

I’m not saying it’s common. But it’s possible. To be honest, even reading that it can take months was surprising. To know it can take years before symptoms begin to show is downright terrifying.

They say the sooner you get the vaccine in your system the better off you’ll be. But if you end up for whatever crazy reason being exposed to rabies and somehow find out even months after the fact, don’t assume you’re safe because you never developed symptoms. Talk to a doctor. Once symptoms begin to appear it’s generally too late to save you. Knowing these symptoms can sometimes take years to appear is shocking.

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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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