Hiker attacked by rabid raccoon in Philadelphia park

May 15, 2012 10:18:13 AM PDT
The Philadelphia Public Health Department is reporting a recent attack by a rabid raccoon, and is warning others who may have encountered the animal.

The raccoon attacked a hiker who was in a restroom at Wissahickon Valley Park on Thursday, May 10th, near the Valley Green Inn.

The animal was trapped and tested positive for rabies. The victim is undergoing treatment to prevent rabies infection, the Health Dept. said.

Officials are asking anyone that was bitten or scratched by a raccoon in late April or early May to seek medical attention immediately.

In addition, dogs that have not been adequately vaccinated against rabies may also have been at risk of encountering the rabid raccoon, especially if left off-leash. All unexplained wounds on a dog should be referred for veterinary care, the Health Dept. said.

"Without prompt preventive treatment, rabies in humans is fatal nearly one hundred percent of the time," said Health Commissioner, Donald F. Schwarz, MD, MPH said in a statement.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health encourages families to teach children to avoid contact with wild or stray animals and take the following additional precautions to reduce the chance of being exposed to rabies:

-Make sure pet dogs and cats have up-to-date vaccinations. In Pennsylvania, all cats and dogs three months of age and older are required to be vaccinated against rabies.

-Confine pets to the home or yard and walk them on a leash. Philadelphia Department of Public Health regulations require that dogs be under the control of a responsible person when not on the owner's property.

-Never approach or touch wild animals or unknown pets. Most animals will attack if threatened or cornered. Avoid strange animals even if they seem friendly. Never try to coax a wild animal to eat from your hand.

-Don't make your house or yard attractive to wild animals. Feed pets inside the house. Keep garbage in tightly closed trash containers.

Between 1948 and 1989, no cases of rabies were reported in Philadelphia's animal population, the Health Dept. said. ?Since 1989, the city has recorded 61 cases of rabies in animals: 26 raccoons, 12 bats, 11 cats, five skunks, three woodchucks, and one of each of the following: fox, dog, beaver, and deer. ?

Philadelphia residents with questions about rabies should call the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's Division of Disease Control at 215-685-6740.


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