WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The Westchester County Department of Health has issued a rabies warning and is seeking a person who may have left five baby raccoons at the department's Mount Kisco office on Friday.
“The raccoons were left on our doorstep in a cage with bottles of milk, blankets and toys,” said Dr. Sherlita Amler, commissioner of health in a press release. “They appear to have been well cared for and nurtured, which means that there was direct contact between these raccoons and the person or people who were caring for them. That’s why it’s important that we talk to the individual or individuals who left them to determine if they may have been potentially exposed to rabies.”
The person or person in question should call the Department of Health at 914-813-5000 to assess their need for lifesaving rabies treatment.
The Health Department's press release said the baby raccoons appear to be healthy and are being placed with a certified wildlife animal rehabilitator, where they will remain in hopes that their caregiver can be located and evaluated. The only way to confirm an animal has rabies is by euthanizing it and testing its brain tissue, a step the health department is trying to avoid, the department statement said.
Rabies is a fatal disease that is spread through the bite or saliva of infected animals. Those animals most commonly infected are raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. However, domestic animals such as cats and dogs are also at risk because they can easily contract rabies from wild or stray animals. Anyone bitten by a rabid animal, or having contact with its saliva, may need to receive post-exposure rabies vaccination.
Unusual behavior may be the first sign of rabies in an animal. A rabid animal may become either abnormally aggressive or unusually tame. It may lose fear of people and become excited and irritable, or, conversely appear particularly passive and lethargic. Staggering and frothing at the mouth are sometimes noted.
All animal bites or contacts with animals suspected of having rabies must be reported to the Westchester County Department of Health at 914-813-5000, 24 hours a day.