FAIRFIELD — Another raccoon found in the downtown area has tested positive for rabies, the third confirmed case in the town in less than two months.

Police also have received reports of a fourth raccoon in a downtown neighborhood and have set a trap to catch the animal, but they don’t think it was exhibiting rabies symptoms.

Officials are asking residents to use caution around wildlife, keep a close eye on their pets and make sure all their domestic animals have been vaccinated.

Fairfield police shot and killed the raccoon Wednesday on Western Avenue. The animal tested positive for rabies Thursday at the Maine Center for Disease Control.

Wednesday’s case was preceded by a raccoon shot by police Saturday near the Fairfield Family Apartments on U.S. Route 201. The animal tested positive for rabies on Tuesday, leading the town officials to issue a health alert.

On March 11, another raccoon was dispatched by police after getting into an altercation with a domestic cat near Old Main Street. That animal also tested positive for the disease.

A downtown resident reported spotting another raccoon Thursday morning, according to Fairfield police Sgt. Matthew Bard. That animal was reported to be in a tree near the person’s home and did not display signs that it was infected, but a trap has been set for it, he said.

“With three confirmed cases, obviously people will be more aware of animals in the area,” Bard said.

According to CDC data, the last confirmed rabid animal in Fairfield was a raccoon in 2006.

Animal Control Officer David Huff said Thursday that it is uncommon to have this many rabies cases reported in a such a small area and short time frame.

“It’s unusual. It really is,” said Huff, who couldn’t offer an explanation for the cluster of cases.

Rabies is a virus-borne disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and is almost always fatal after symptoms of the disease develop, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Humans bitten by an infected animal are put on an immediate regimen that includes a series of injections to fight the virus before symptoms appear.

The virus is carried in an animal’s saliva and neural tissue and can be transmitted through a bite or a scratch. All mammals can get rabies, but some animals, including skunks, raccoons, foxes and bats, are more likely to catch the disease than others. Rabies in humans is rare.

Infected animals display strange behavior and might appear to be friendly or unafraid of humans or pets. In some cases, animals stumble when walking and may become aggressive.

Officials are urging residents not to approach wild animals and to keep a close eye on their pets. Anyone who has contact with a wild animal or whose domestic animals do is asked to call Fairfield police immediately.

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