21 people in Weld County have been exposed to rabies from a baby raccoon found in a woman’s yard.
According to the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, a baby raccoon tested positive for rabies after a woman found the raccoon on her property and brought it into her home. The raccoon was reportedly abandoned by its mother.
21 people were exposed to the animal before it was tested, making it the largest rabies exposure case in Weld County, according to the public health department. All people exposed have received rabies post-exposure treatment since.
“This looks like a year for high rabies exposure in animals,” said Mark E. Wallace, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Weld County Health Department. “It is very important that people not touch or go near wild animals.”
The Public Health Department said any mammal, including humans, is at risk for contracting rabies. That risk increases when pets and domestic animals are not properly vaccinated, which is the department’s concern.
“We’re not just seeing typical skunk or bat rabies this year,” said Wallace. “We’re concerned about the growing number of cases among other animals such as raccoons and cats.”
The public health department wants to remind people to reduce your risk of rabies exposure keep pets currently vaccinated and leave wild animals alone. It is illegal in Colorado to have almost all species of wildlife without permits and licenses, as people can be ticketed and the animal be removed.
According to the health department, rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system, which can cause swelling of the brain and spinal cord and is fatal to humans and animals. Vaccination treatment is available to prevent the virus before symptoms appear.
To prevent exposure to rabies:
- Leave orphaned animals alone. Baby animals often appear to be orphaned when they are not. The parent animal may not return if people are too close.
- Do not feed, touch or handle wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats
- Have dogs, cats, horses, and livestock vaccinated regularly by a licensed veterinarian
If you do find a wild animal that appears to be sick, injured or orphaned, contact your local Animal Control Officer, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, or a local veterinary office before attempting to move it.