BERLIN – With six confirmed cases of rabid raccoons in Worcester in the last two weeks including four in densely populated, highly developed areas, local health official this week issued a warning the disease is not limited to rural areas and residents and visitors should take the necessary precautions.
On Tuesday, the Worcester County Health Department issued a release alerting local residents six new incidents of rabid raccoons have been reported in the county including four in areas such as north Ocean City, Ocean Pines, the White Marlin Mall in West Ocean City and in South Point. Although rabies is present to some degree at all times in Worcester County, the latest spurt of confirmed cases illustrates the disease is not only associated with rural settings, but can, and is, being found in suburban and town settings.
According to health department officials, raccoons are the most frequently identified carriers of rabies in Worcester County and across Maryland, but the potentially deadly viral disease has also been found in foxes, cats, bats, skunks, groundhogs and other animals. Cats with rabies serve as a reminder the disease is not always associated just with wild animals. They are the number one domestic animal species most likely to be unvaccinated and their risk level also goes up because they run the risk of exposure to other rabid wildlife while outside.
While the recent spate of new cases discovered in Worcester is reason for concern, health department officials have listed several recommendations area residents can do to protect their families and reduce the risk of exposure for their pets. For example, the health department recommends making sure their dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies and to keep records of their vaccinations current, particularly outdoor cats.
The health department is advising residents not to let their pets roam free and avoid feeding them outdoors as that could attract wild animals in search of food. Also, do not leave pet food outside overnight and make trashcans are secure. In addition, residents and visitors are urged not to feed any stray animals and to contact their animal control authority if strays or other unwanted animals frequently hang around their property.
The health department is also encouraging locals and residents to teach their children not to touch or even approach wild animals and even domesticated animals they don’t know and to avoid any sick animals acting in an unusual manner. Above all else, residents are urged to contact their health department or their local law enforcement agency about any and all concerns about wild animals and rabies.