In the earlier part of this century, New Jersey had a large problem with rabies in dogs. In 1939, the worst year for dog rabies, 675 dogs and four humans died of rabies. In 1942, a rabies program consisting of mass vaccination of dogs, and pick-up of stray animals was initiated. As a result of these efforts, New Jersey experienced its last case of canine rabies in 1956. In 1960, the first case of rabies in bats was detected in New Jersey. Presently, 2% to 5% of all New Jersey bats submitted to the state laboratory for testing are positive for rabies.
In 1997, a New Jersey man was diagnosed with rabies. He had removed bats from his house and may have been bitten by a bat in the process. This was the first human case of rabies since 1971, when a man was bitten by a bat and received partial treatment with the previously used rabies vaccine. The current vaccine, unlike the previous vaccine, has never failed when administered properly.
New Jersey is facing another challenge from rabies. Raccoon rabies has spread throughout the state.