Rabid raccoon captured in the Wissahickon after trail attack

A rabid raccoon was captured in Wissahickon Park this week after biting an adult in a public restroom near Roxborough’s Valley Green Inn.

According to a statement from the Philadelphia Department of Health, on the afternoon of May 10, visitors of Wissahickon Valley Park noticed a raccoon “staggering” by the public restroom in the park. The raccoon then made its way inside the restroom where it attacked an adult who had been hiking in the park. The victim is currently being treated to prevent a rabies infection. 

Philadelphia Public Health officials are urging Northwest Philadelphia residents to help identify anyone else who may have been bitten or scratched in late April or early May by a raccoon with a laboratory-confirmed case of rabies.

The Health Department advises anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by a raccoon in Wissahickon Park to seek medical attention immediately. Pet owners in the area whose dogs or cats do not have up-to-date rabies vaccinations should exercise special caution. Any pet in the Wissahickon area which has unexplained bites or wounds should get immediate veterinary care, especially dogs who may have been off-leash. Pennsylvania state law requires that all dogs and cats three months or older be fully vaccinated against rabies.

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In the Health Department’s release, Health Commissioner Dr. Donald F. Schwarz reminded locals that raccoons, bats, feral cats and many other wild animals can carry rabies. Anyone who is exposed to a bite or scratch from these animals should consider the risk of rabies, which in humans is fatal close to one hundred percent of the time, unless the affected person seeks prompt preventive treatment.

The Health Department’s Division of Disease Control advises residents to report any animal bite or scratch to their doctor, or directly to the Health Department at 215-685-6748.

Anyone who sees an animal acting strangely should immediately call local police and the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Southeast Regional Office at 610-926-3136.

“We don’t know if that animal infected any others before it was captured,” said Fairmount Park Chief of Staff Barry Bessler.  Park visitors should beware of “any animal that is not going about its usual business.” Animals exhibiting strange or aggressive behavior should be avoided and reported.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has these additional tips for families in the area:

Make sure children avoid any stray or wild animals or unknown pets, even if they seem friendly.
Confine pets at home or be sure to walk them on a leash.
Never try to feed a wild or unknown animal from your hand.
Don’t make your yard attractive to wild animals; feed pets inside and keep garbage in tightly-closed containers.

“People should always be cognizant of their surroundings when using the parks,” Bessler said. 

Since 1989, 61 cases of rabies in animals have been reported in Philadelphia, including 26 raccoons, several bats, cats, and skunks, three woodchucks and one fox, dog, beaver and deer.

Anyone who would like more information about rabies can call the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Division of Disease Control at 215-685-6740.

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