Couple exposed to rabies after raccoon encounter; DEM reminds public not to feed wildlife

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PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — A North Providence couple was exposed to rabies after feeding a raccoon that later tested positive for the virus, according to the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

The incident occurred on August 31, when an environmental police officer responded to call regarding a raccoon acting unusually.

The couple told the officer the raccoon had trouble balancing and also appeared to have an injured foot.

The DEM said the officer had to euthanize the raccoon on scene. The raccoon’s body was submitted to the R.I. Department of Health, where lab results confirmed it had rabies.

“Situations like this highlight the reason why people should keep a safe distance, and keep their pets and livestock a safe distance, from wild animals,” State Veterinarian and chairman of the R.I. Rabies Control Board Scott Marshall said.

“Any contact with a wild mammal is a potential rabies exposure that may necessitate a person undergoing rabies preventive treatment, or the animal being euthanized to test for rabies, both of which can be avoided by simply keeping a safe distance,” he continued.

The DEM and Health Department offered the following tips to prevent rabies exposure:

  • Make sure all pet dogs, cats and ferrets are up to date on rabies vaccinations.
  • Avoid all contact with and do not feed stray or free-roaming domestic animals.
  • Avoid all contact with and do not feed wild animals.
  • Do not feed your animals outdoors, as this will attract other animals. This is especially dangerous when feeding large numbers of free-roaming cats.
  • Protect your pets by always maintaining control; walk dogs on a leash or let them play in a fenced yard, and do not let pets wander unsupervised.
  • Report all animal bites to your community’s animal control officer.
  • Securely cover all garbage cans so wild animals can’t scavenge for food.

There has not been a reported human case of rabies in the state since 1940, according to the DEM.

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