Twenty-one people are being treated for rabies exposure in what’s been described as the largest such case seen in a Colorado county
A woman who lives in the southern part of Weld County, Colorado found a baby racoon on her property and took the animal into her home after she believed the animal had been abandoned by its mother, a Weld County Department of Health and Environment press release stated.
According to Colorado’s Greeley Tribune, the woman then apparently had 20 visitors to her home, all who reportedly expressed interest in seeing the baby raccoon.
“This was a baby wild animal, so I think there was some heightened interest to seeing a baby animal in the home,” Rachel Freeman, the health department’s supervisor, told the newspaper.
Ms Freeman told the Tribune the case was brought to the Weld County health department after the woman who found the raccoon on her property contacted a local animal shelter hoping they would take the animal in. The shelter, unable to take the raccoon, contacted the health department. The department then reached out to the woman to enquire about testing the raccoon for rabies.
The baby raccoon tested positive for rabies, and the 21 people exposed to the raccoon have begun post-exposure treatment.
“This looks like a year for high rabies exposure in animals,” said Mark Wallace, executive director of the Weld County health department in the release. “It is very important that people not touch or go near wild animals.”
According to the CDC, the rabies virus infects the central nervous system. If left untreated and symptoms progress it can cause “disease in the brain and death” the site states.
Mr Wallace said the Weld County health department has concerns about the growing number of rabies cases among animals, like raccoons and cats.