MIDDLETOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — An alarming spike in rabies cases has caused concern in part of New Jersey and officials were trying to get the word out Wednesday.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen in 15 years of doing the job,” Animal Control Officer, Robert Card said.

As CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport reported, Animal Control officers are concerned by the growing number of rabies cases in wild animals throughout the area.

So far, 13 raccoons and one fox have tested positive for the brain-eating disease. Another two raccoons and a fox are currently being tested.

Officials have called the sheer number of rabies cases this year unprecedented. They typically only see a few cases a year.

“I wouldn’t even know the answer as to why there’s so many this year,” Card said.

The spike has created concern for area pet owners. Dogs and cats could be exposed to animals that carry the potentially deadly disease.

“I’ll probably be keeping them in the house too now. Not letting them run around outside so much without me watching them,” resident Maryanne Rodriguez said.

Pet owners have been urged to make sure their dogs, cats, and ferrets have gotten their rabies shot. The disease is transmitted by saliva.

“I even pay more attention to the kids when they’re out there. You never know,” Jennifer Shea said.

Experts said that the best precautions are to keep pets and kids supervised, avoid contact with wild animals, and keep garbage tightly secured to avoid attracting raccoons. If you do see an animal acting strangely or erratically, experts said to call animal control.

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