Rabies is a genuine problem with raccoons so, for World Rabies Day on September 28th, let’s take a look at these cute but potentially dangerous mammals. As the CDC states, rabies is a completely preventable disease for humans. Despite that, more than 59,000 people die from rabies each year around the world.
Is Rabies Common in Raccoons?
Yes, rabies is so common in raccoons that the Humane Society of the United States refers to raccoons as a “rabies vector species.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) labeled raccoons as the main rabies carrier in the United States, along with skunks, bats, gray foxes, and red foxes.
Thankfully, rabies is treatable. The CDC says that only one person has ever died from raccoon-transmitted rabies – which is why the CDC’s main efforts against rabies focus on transmission by dogs, which is much more likely to transmit to humans.
What Causes Rabies?
Rabies is a virus or, more specifically, a Lyssavirus. The virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mammal, so even humans could transmit rabies. However, dogs, bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes are more common transmitters of rabies.
How Do You Know If a Raccoon Has Rabies?
A common misunderstanding is that any raccoon you see in the daytime must have rabies. That is not true – even though raccoons are primarily nocturnal animals. Sometimes a raccoon just stayed out until dawn foraging for food, an easy food source is only available during the day, or it is looking for a new territory.
How to tell if a Raccoon is Rabid:
- Mouth or eye discharge (a.k.a. foaming at the mouth)
- Self-mutilation and/or facial fur is wet and matted
- It keeps yelling or making high-pitched sounds
- Ignores loud noises or movement that would normally scare it
Is Rabies Common in New York State?
Fortunately, due to the extensive vaccination of pets and educating the public about recognizing and avoiding possibly rabid wildlife, rabies is not terribly common in New York state. A 2018 report cited Suffolk County as having tested 196 animals for rabies and only 7 were positive. The same data showed 247 tested in Nassau Country during the same period and only 2 positives.
What to Do If a Raccoon Bites You?
Wash the wound with soap and water, and then get medical attention immediately – even if it seems minor. Animal bites must be reported to the county health department in New York state. The contact number for your county can be found at the New York State Department of Health website.
Are Raccoon Scratches Dangerous?
Potentially, yes. Any animal scratch can be dangerous… so medical treatment is recommended even if it seems like a mild scratch. Rabies is more commonly transmitted by bites but a scratch can still be dangerous or could become infected.
Can a Scratch Cause Rabies?
Yes, it is possible. Even though rabies is normally transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, rabies has been also transmitted through licks or scratches. A doctor should check any wound from a possibly rabies-infected animal.
How Do You Handle Raccoons on Your Property?
Raccoons have legal protection in New York state, so you shouldn’t be handling them yourself. Only those licensed by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (such as Arrow Exterminating) are legally allowed to trap and transport raccoons. However, you can avoid attracting raccoons by keeping garbage tightly sealed. Avoid keeping pet food outside, too.
Let Arrow Exterminating Handle Raccoons
The best way to deal with a raccoon is to call in the professionals at Arrow Exterminating. If you have a raccoon problem or are concerned about them this winter, let us help you get back to living in a critter-free environment. To get started, contact Arrow Exterminating today.