Update on Worcester County Health Department’s investigation into rabid raccoon situation in Ocean City

Ocean City, Md. – Worcester County Health Department confirmed late yesterday afternoon that a raccoon that attacked a man in north Ocean City tested positive for rabies.
The health department was initially notified by a citizen on Tuesday morning about an aggressive raccoon near Northside Park that attacked one person.  It was later learned that two more people were charged by what authorities believe is the same raccoon.  The raccoon’s body was sent for testing to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Laboratory.   
 
Rabies is an ongoing issue in Worcester County and affects local wildlife. The animals most frequently confirmed with rabies in the county are raccoons, followed by foxes, skunks, groundhogs and cats.
 
Any person, pet or other animal that may have had contact with this or other rabies suspect wildlife may be at risk of a rabies exposure.  To report any contact with or exposure to this raccoon, call the Worcester County Health Department at 410-632-1100 or 410-352-3234.  Any potential exposures should be reported immediately so that a risk assessment can be done.   
 
If a pet has had contact with a wild or suspect animal, contact your veterinarian and the health department.  Wounds found on an outdoor pet from an unwitnessed encounter should be treated as a possible rabies exposure.  Appropriate management for your pet will be determined and currently vaccinated animals should be reboostered after exposure.
 
Reports of sick acting, aggressive wildlife or strays should be reported immediately so law enforcement can assess the situation and contain the suspect animal and minimize other exposure to pets or persons.  Suspect rabid animals should then be made available for testing by the health department, where warranted.   
 
The health department recommends the following tips to protect your pets and family from rabies exposure:
  
o   Vaccinate pets and keep those vaccinations current.  Maryland law requires vaccination against rabies for all dogs, cats and ferrets over 4 months of age.  Rabies vaccinations (shots) have limited time of protection, so citizens should verify that their pets are CURRENTLY protected. 
 
o   Do not feed pets outdoors.  Pet food, even the odor of it, in empty containers and on the ground draws wildlife.  While looking for food is normal behavior for raccoons and foxes particularly in the spring when there are young to be fed, these animals may return to areas they frequent if they become rabid. 
 
o   Secure trash cans and dumpster lids for the same reason outlined above.  Wild animals forage for food and minimizing food sources will discourage wildlife from coming to your property.
 
o   Remove strays from the community.  Stray cats are of particular concern, as they are competing for food with wildlife and have more opportunity for exposure to rabid wildlife, such as raccoons.  Many of the fights with raccoons go unwitnessed, and are only noted after the cat becomes rabid.  Cats are the most frequently identified rabid domestic animal.
 
 
o   Report immediately to local law enforcement or animal control, any abnormally behaving or aggressive wild animal or stray, particularly if contact to humans or pets is imminent or has already occurred.  A response can be made to the scene and assessment done of the animal’s behavior.  DO NOT TOUCH bare-handed any pet that has fought with a wild or suspect rabid animal. Determination will be made as to the disposition of the offending animal and the need for rabies testing.
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