There has been a fifth report of rabies in Fairfield, and town officials are urging pet owners to get their pets vaccinated if the pets’ shots are not up to date.

All the rabies cases have involved raccoons. The most recent was on Friday in the area of Gibson Street and Dyer Court, according to a news release on the town’s website by Police Chief Tom Gould. It has yet to be confirmed through testing.

Other cases were reported March 11 on Winter Street, April 25 on U.S. Route 201 near Fairfield Family Apartments, and April 29 and May 1 in Shawmut.

After the third report, town animal control officer David Huff said it was unusual to have this many rabies cases in such a short period of time.

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 given 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 behave strangely and might appear to be friendly or unafraid of humans or pets. In some cases, animals stumble when walking and may become aggressive.

Town officials, after the first reports, urged 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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