EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Health officials are investigating human and pet exposures to a raccoon with rabies in Easthampton on Monday.
The Easthampton Department of Health said they were notified of one human and two domestic pet exposures to the infected wild animal on Friday. Results from a state testing lab on Monday showed the raccoon was positive for rabies.
Another human exposure to a possibly rabid raccoon was also reported on Monday, test results are pending. Both exposures occurred in the areas of Clark Street and East Greene Street, according to health officials.
“Rabies is a very serious disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of mammals (if an animal has hair or fur, it is a mammal),” the Easthampton Health Department explained. “Rabies is caused by a virus and almost always causes death. Rabies spreads when an animal with rabies bites another animal or person.”
Rabies can be found in the saliva of infected animals, which can spread if exposed to a scratch, wound, eyes, nose, or mouth of a person or animal. Most cases occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, woodchucks, and foxes. Some pets, especially cats and farm animals can also get rabies.
It can be difficult to tell if an animal has been infected by rabies, health officials said. Some animals may act aggressively and attack people or other animals. Health officials are advising residents to not handle, approach, or feed any wildlife.
Easthampton’s Health Director Bri Eichstaedt told 22News that vaccinating your pet against rabies could save their lives, “When there is an exposure, if that wildlife either tests positive or if we can’t collect the wildlife then either way the pet will need to quarantine and if the pet is unvaccinated, which means its never been vaccinated in it’s life, the state recommends euthanization.”
If you or your pet come in contact with wildlife, you’re asked to call the Easthampton Police Department’s non-emergency line at (413) 527-1212.