Yet again, a large number of people are undergoing rabies post-exposure treatment because they were exposed to a rabid raccoon that was "adopted" from the wild. In this case, a North Carolina family found a baby raccoon at the side of the road and decided to bring it home. Over the next couple of weeks, various family and friends handled the raccoon, and many were bitten or scratched in the process. The raccoon then died and was identified as being rabid. Forty-five people are now being assessed to determine whether they need to be treated for rabies exposure.
The family dog, which was unvaccinated, has been taken by Animal Control and now faces either a six-month strict quarantine or euthanasia. I suspect the dog will be euthanized.
So, this probably well-meaning but misguided action has resulted in:
- the need for costly post-exposure treatment of many people
- presumably a stressful period for many of those people
- probably the death of the pet dog (although not having the dog vaccinated played a big role here too, since if it was vaccinated, it would only face a 45 day observation period at home, not a strict six-month quarantine or euthanasia).
Fortunately, the raccoon was tested. Otherwise we might be talking about human deaths from rabies, instead of people needing post-exposure treatment. The people who took in the raccoon could also face charges since keeping wildlife without a permit is illegal, but it sounds like that’s unlikely to occur.
A few take-home messages from a situation like this:
- Leave wildlife in the wild.
- Vaccinate your pets.
- If you are exposed to an animal that is acting strangely, make sure it’s tested for rabies (they did this right, at least).