CLINTON — A raccoon that tested positive for rabies is another indication of the fatal disease’s earlier than usual appearance this year, a state epidemiologist said.

The rabid raccoon was killed last week by police, according to Chief Craig Johnson.

Johnson said police learned of the raccoon when a resident of River Road called police to say that a raccoon was standing outside his door and wouldn’t let him leave the house. Officer Scott Richards arrived, determined the raccoon was acting aggressively and shot it.

The raccoon was taken to the state laboratory, where it tested positive for rabies, according to a news release from Town Manager Aaron Chrostowsky.

Stephen Sears, state epidemiologist for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said rabies cases have appeared throughout the state earlier than usual this year. He said the mild winter might be responsible.

“I don’t think the winter makes more rabies, it just means that there are more animals out and about, which leaves more possibilities for contact with pets or other exposures,” he said.

“I don’t think the winter makes more rabies, it just means that there are more animals out and about, which leaves more possibilities for contact with pets or other exposures,” he said.

Rabies cases in Kennebec County this year have already surpassed last year’s total, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Wednesday, there were seven confirmed cases in 2012 in the county. Last year, there were five. Statewide, there have been 39 confirmed cases thus far in 2012, compared to 65 for all of 2011.

In Clinton, at least two other animals — a skunk and a fox — displayed unusual behavior last week, according to the release.

Sears said raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats are the most common animals to contract the disease.

Signs and symptoms of rabies include behavior changes such as withdrawal or aggression, excessive drooling, foaming at the mouth, dilated pupils, vacant stare, muscle tremors, a throaty bark and varying degrees of paralysis, according to the release.

Rabies is a virus that affects the brain and spinal cord and can cause death if left untreated. Rabies is very rare among humans the United States, but is relatively common among wild animals throughout the country including Maine, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rabies virus is found in the saliva, brain and spinal cord of infected animals. It can spread through bites or scratches from infected animals, or if saliva or neural tissue comes in contact with another animal’s mouth, nose or eyes, or enters a cut in the skin.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

 


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