Following a rise in animals testing positive for rabies in the state since the start of this year, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) urges Maine people and visitors to take steps to prevent rabies.
Between January and May of 2023, the Maine CDC confirmed 30 cases of rabies in raccoons, skunks, bats, a fox, and a woodchuck. Cumberland County recorded 12 of the 30 cases. Rabies activity was significantly lower in 2022, with a total of 35 cases for the year.
Rabies is a virus that infects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Rabies spreads when infected animals bite, and in some cases scratch, other animals or humans. All mammals can get rabies, but raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats are the most common animals to test positive for rabies in Maine. The rabies virus does not spread in blood, urine, feces, skunk spray, or dried saliva.
A rabid animal may show a variety of symptoms or no symptoms at all. Once symptoms develop, rabies is almost always fatal. Timely post-exposure treatment can prevent disease in people; a rabies vaccination is required for all pet cats and dogs of a certain age in Maine and offers the best protection against rabies.
The Maine CDC urges everyone to take precautions around animals that you do not know and to take steps to protect yourself and your animals against rabies.
To help protect yourself and your pet against rabies:
- Keep your pet’s rabies vaccination up to date.
- Feed pets indoors.
- Keep garbage cans or other sources of food tightly secured.
- Do not feed, touch, or adopt wild animals.
- Be cautious of stray dogs and cats. If you spot a stray cat or dog, contact your local animal control officer.
- Do not move wildlife. This can spread rabies into new areas.
- Wash bite or scratch wounds thoroughly with soap and water for 10-15 minutes and contact your health care provider.
Who to contact:
- If an animal bites or scratches you, contact your health care provider.
- If an animal bites or scratches your pet or livestock, contact your veterinarian.
- If you want to report a dead or suspicious-acting raccoon, skunk, fox, or coyote in Maine, contact a game warden with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
- Maine CDC is also available to answer questions.
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