Central Park Rabies Alert: 2 Humans and 1 Dog Exposed

by - February 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm -

raccoonThe rabies outbreak in Central Park continues to spread, and now two humans have been exposed to the virus, one of whom was bitten by an aggressive and possibly rabid raccoon. A dog was also exposed after tussling with a raccoon in Central Park. Since the beginning of the year, 39 raccoons have been found with rabies in Manhattan, 37 of them in and around Central Park and 2 in Morningside Park.

One person walking around the northern edge of Central Park was bitten by “an aggressive acting raccoon” on the thumb, said Sally Slavinski, Assistant Director of the NYC Health Department’s Zoonotic and Vector borne disease unit, in an interview Tuesday with the Westside Independent.

Another person attempted to help a sick raccoon on the West side of the park in the 70’s, and was likely exposed after putting fingers in the raccoon’s mouth to give it water. Slavinski said she doesn’t recommend attempting to help sick raccoons. Better to call 311 and let the authorities do that. Slavinski was unsure where in the park the dog was bitten. The dog and the two people were all treated and have not shown symptoms of rabies, the health department said.

The health department began vaccinating raccoons in Central, Morningside, and Riverside Parks on Tuesday and plans to continue doing so for 4 to 8 weeks. The department will be setting traps in the park for the raccoons, so they can inject them with the vaccine, tag them and release them back into the park.

“Traps will be placed in remote areas to keep pets and park visitors from disrupting them, and each trap will display city contact information for use in emergencies,” the health department said in a release.

Slavinski says she thinks there are hundreds of raccoons in Central Park, though it’s unclear how many have rabies. The raccoon population grows quickly in the park because there aren’t natural predators to kill the raccoons and there is readily available food.

Here’s a city map (pdf) of where the rabid raccoons have been found. They appear to be mostly in the North of the park, though Slavinski says they have increasingly been found farther South as well.

“Once rabies gets into the raccoon population, it’s easy to transmit it rapidly,” Slavinski said.

We broke the story about the rabid raccoon problem last month.

Here’s how to protect against rabies, via the health department:

To protect yourself against rabies:

  • Do not touch or feed wild animals, or stray dogs or cats.
  • Keep garbage in tightly sealed containers.
  • Stay away from any animal that is behaving aggressively
  • Stay away from any wild animal that appears ill or acts unusually friendly. Call 311 or your local police precinct to report the animal.
  • Animals that have attacked, or seem likely to attack, should be reported to 911.

To protect your pet against rabies:

  • Make sure your dog or cat is up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.
  • Keep your dog leashed while outdoors unless at a specified off-leash area or park
  • Do not leave your pets outdoors unattended.
  • Do not try to separate animals that are fighting.
  • If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact your veterinarian, and report the incident to 311.
  • Feed pets indoors.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal:

  • Immediately wash the wound with lots of soap and water.
  • Seek medical care from your health care provider.
  • If the animal is not owned, and can be captured, call 311.
  • If the animal is a pet, get the owner’s name, address and telephone number so that the Health Department can monitor the animal.
  • To report a bite, call the Animal Bite Unit (212-676-2483) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week. At night or on weekends, call 212-POISONS (764-7667). You can also file a report online at www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/vet/vetegp.shtml.
  • For information about medical follow-up, call 311 or your medical provider.

For more information about rabies in New York City, visit www.nyc.gov/health/rabies.

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  1. ron williams says...

    The rabid raccoon problem is wide spread in Florida. The rule is: if the raccoon runs from you it lives, if it runs towards you it dies.

  2. ebp says...

    Who tries to help a sick raccoon by putting one’s fingers in its mouth? I guess CPR wasn’t an option.