There has been a significant increase in animal rabies in New Jersey this year, so it is prudent and also required by law to have your pet dogs and cats receive an annual rabies vaccine. When they do so, they get a color coded (all red, or all blue,etc. ) and shaped (fire hydrant, disk, sword) medallion for their collar so that at a glance you can determine if an unleashed pet who bit your child has been vaccinated against rabies this year. Rabies travels up from the site of the bite along the nerves to infect the brain, and then moves into the salivary glands of the animal. Raccoons are nocturnal animals by nature and instinct, so if you see a raccoon during the day, it is safest to assume that it is crazed from rabies, and to call the local animal control office. Do not approach it or let your children or pets come near to it. A rabid raccoon may also become aggressive and charge at you, so it is safest to gather everyone into the house. The raccoon also may bite other animals (skunks, horses, cows, squirrels, and foxes and make them rabid as well.
Bats are natural harborers of the rabies virus, which is a harmless commensal for the bat. Therefore assume that ALL bats are rabid, and if one flies into your bedroom get out at once and call your doctor. They have small, sharp, needle-like teeth and you may not feel the bite. If they fly around your campfire, get away from the campfire. And please don't make homes on poles for bats in the hopes that they will keep your neighborhood free of mosquitoes because they may also bite and infect any raccoons, foxes and coyotes in the neighborhood, as well as you and your loved ones. They also like to nest during the day under closed sun umbrellas by your pool. (The recent epidemic of bat deaths due to the white-nosed fungus has nothing to do with their carrying rabies, and the most common place to encounter bats is in caves.)
Three humans in the past 10 years have survived rabies attacks after the virus reached their brain, but they required prolonged stays in an ICU, and their survival was distinctly unusual.