A raccoon dropped off by two New Yorkers at the Manhattan Animal Care and Control Shelter tested positive for rabies yesterday, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported today. The Health Department is trying to identify these individuals, who may have been exposed to rabies while handling the animal. Rabies is a fatal disease, but it can be prevented if exposed individuals get rabies shots. There has not been a case of human rabies in New York City for more than 50 years.
The individuals brought the injured raccoon, wrapped in a blanket and placed in a pet carrier, to the East 110th Street shelter on the evening of Friday, February 23rd. They were described as a white man and woman in their thirties wearing medical scrubs. They left before giving any contact information to the shelter staff. [Okay, so how do you know they were New Yorkers as you state in the first paragraph?!] These people should seek medical care immediately and call 311 to notify the Health Department. The Health Department is also alerting City doctors and veterinarians of the possible exposure.
It is not known if this raccoon was living in Manhattan, which has had very few cases of rabid animals compared to Staten Island and the Bronx. It may have been transported from another borough. This raccoon is the first animal that has tested positive in Manhattan in 2007; one bat tested positive in 2006. DOHMH warns New Yorkers to avoid contact with stray cats and dogs or other potentially rabid animals such as raccoons, skunks, or opossums and to ensure that their pets’ rabies vaccinations are kept up to date.
To protect yourself against rabies:
Rabies is most often transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal or when saliva of the infected animal comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membrane (such as nose or mouth). Simple contact with a wild animal will not result in rabies.
To protect your pet against rabies:
- Do not touch or feed wild animals, stray dogs or cats, or bats.
- Keep garbage in tightly sealed containers.
- Stay away from any animal that is displaying unusual behavior or appears ill, particularly if the animal is behaving aggressively or if a wild animal acts unusually friendly. Call 311 to report animals that are displaying these or other unusual behaviors.
If you are bitten by an animal:
- Make sure your dog or cat is up-to-date on its rabies vaccinations.
- Do not leave your pets outdoors unattended.
- If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact your veterinarian.
- Feed pets indoors.
- First, wash the wound with soap and water IMMEDIATELY.
- Talk to a doctor right away to see if you need tetanus or rabies shots. If you don’t have a regular doctor, go to a hospital emergency room.
- Call 311 to report the bite.