Public Advised to Vaccinate Pets and Stay Away from Wildlife
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management has received positive confirmation of rabies in a baby raccoon that was found in Coventry and submitted for testing on June 4. The animal was initially found on May 29 on John Franklin Road, which is in a rural area of Coventry near the Scituate line. The family that found the animal brought it into its home, where it had contact with several adults and one minor child. Nine Rhode Islanders and two individuals from Connecticut who had known contact with the animal are now being treated for rabies exposure. Finding rabies in wildlife is common and is one of the reasons why DEM prohibits people from possessing native wildlife and limits those who are authorized to rehabilitate sick or injured wildlife to those individuals who are properly trained and immunized against rabies.
Anyone who could have had potential contact with a raccoon in that area should contact the RI Department of Health's Division of Infectious Diseases at 222-2577 for evaluation.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease. Humans may be exposed to rabies through a bite, scratch, or direct contact where there is contamination of a scratch, abrasion, mucous membrane or fresh open wound with saliva from a rabid animal. Rabies infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease of the brain and death when untreated. Treatment of humans soon after exposure is effective in preventing rabies infection.
Although there has not been a human case of rabies in Rhode Island since 1940, it is important that all Rhode Islanders take steps to protect themselves from rabies exposure. This positive rabies finding in an animal serves as a reminder to all Rhode Islanders that rabies remains prevalent throughout the state and that residents should continue to undertake sensible precautions. Those include: vaccinating pets, staying away from wildlife, securing garbage, not allowing pet animals to run loose, and not leaving pet food outside.
Rabid animals have been found in every community in Rhode Island. Target species include skunks, raccoons, foxes, woodchucks, and bats. Rabies virus is widespread among wildlife in Rhode Island; therefore contact with all wild mammals anywhere within the state should be avoided.
Protecting pets from rabies helps to maintain a barrier between humans and rabies in wildlife, and, under state law, dogs, cats, and ferrets must be maintained as currently vaccinated against rabies. Only a licensed veterinarian can administer the vaccine.
Wild animals that act aggressively or are noticeably sick should be reported to the DEM Division of Law Enforcement at 222-3070 or to your local animal control officer.
For more information on rabies, visit the DEM website, www.dem.ri.gov, and click on "Topics" then "Public Health." Information is also available on HEALTH's website, www.health.ri.gov, by clicking on "Health Topics" then "Rabies."