A raccoon that attacked and bit multiple times a  88-year-old Hamden, CT woman Sunday has tested positive for rabies, according to a News 8 report Tuesday.

Raccoon image/CDC
Raccoon image/CDC

The victim, Betty McKernan, accidentally let the wild animal in her house Sunday night mistaking it for her cat. While attempting to pet the creature, the raccoon attacked and bit McKernan on her elbow, hand, forearm, lip and chin.

She was able to fend off the raccoon and call 911 where police got the animal outside where it was euthanized. The body was sent to the Connecticut State Lab for analysis.

McKernan was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital where she was treated and began the rabies vaccination series.

Watch the interview with Betty McKernan here

Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. It is also rarely contracted through breaks in the skin or contact with mucous membranes. It has been suggested that airborne transmission is possible in caves where there are heavyconcentrations of bats.

According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.

Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.

Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptomsthen progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, thedisease is nearly 100% fatal.

Although worldwide it is estimated that there are more than 55,000 deaths due to rabies annually,human rabies cases are extremely rare in the United States, which averages  less than five human rabies cases annually.

Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin. For moreinfectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page