Rabid raccoon found in Fairfield

A raccoon collected in the Hill Farm Road area of Fairfield tested positive for rabies on March 13.

As a precaution authorities are reminding residents to be alert for animals in their neighborhood that appear suspicious.

All homes within a half mile of the raccoon have been notified via the Code Red system. That covers a range 15 times larger than a raccoons typical wandering range.

One household pet is known to have had contact with the infected animal, but did have an up-to-date vaccination.

Raccoons are among the most common carriers of the rabies virus, along with skunks, bats, foxes and coyotes. However any mammal is susceptible including dogs, cats, cattle and people.

Rabies attacks the nervous system and is generally transmitted through saliva into an open wound wound or the mucus membranes of the eyes or mouth. Animal bites are the most common means of human infection. Handling a rabid animal, its blood, urine or feces does not itself result in transmission.

Sunlight and drying out will kill the virus in infected material.

Untreated, rabies is terminal. Incubation can take weeks or months and passes through many stages before becoming fatal. Early symptoms resemble the flu. Later stages include itching or a prickly feeling around the wound, followed by anxiety, confusion and agitation. As the disease progresses the infected may experience delirium, hallucinations, insomnia and in the end stages partial paralysis, increased salivation and a fear of water.

Prompt treatment in humans means rabies is entirely preventable. Still the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report one or two deaths from rabies a year.

Unusual or suspicious animal activity should be reported to Fairfield Animal Control at 203-254-4857 or the police at 203-254-4808.

Keep rabies shots up to date on pets and try to keep cats and ferrets indoors. Animals should be supervised while outside.

Signs of a possible infection include:

•  Shyness of a normally friendly pet

•  Fearlessness (of humans) in wild animals

•  Uncharacteristic excitability, aggressiveness, or restlessness

•  Sudden mood changes

•  Excessive drooling

•  Abnormal activity during the time of day the animal is usually inactive

•   Eating substances that are not normally eaten

•  Paralysis

Information about rabies in both humans and animals is available from the Centers for Disease Control at 1-800- CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636), or www.cdc.gov/rabies.

For more information about this or other local public health concerns, contact the Fairfield Health Department 203-256-3020.

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