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Reports of aggressive raccoons in Ocean City mount

Monday - 7/8/2013, 4:08pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Worcester County health officials warn residents to be wary of aggressive, possibly rabid animals as the number of reports of raccoon encounters and attacks grows.

The county health department says it has continued to receive complaints of aggressive raccoons since June 18, when a rabid raccoon attacked one person and then became agressive with two other people near Northside Park.

The newer reports include raccoons that approach or attack people and pets in north Ocean City, especially between 85th Street and 130th Street. Anyone who sees or is approached by an animal that appears to be rabid, especially raccoons, foxes, skunks or feral cats, is asked to call police or animal control immediately.

Since the beginning of the year, the department has identified 18 rabid animals and 15 other animals suspected of having rabies. In comparison, the department reported 19 confirmed cases in all of 2012.

The interactions with infected animals this year have resulted in treatment for people who were exposed plus quarantine or euthanasia for exposed pets, the health department says.

The health department urges pet owners not to touch their pet with bare hands if they suspect their pet has been exposed. Use gloves or another protective barrier instead. Outdoor pets with open wounds should be treated as if they were exposed to rabies.

Call your veterinarian and ask for a rabies booster shot as soon as possible.

Other tips to reduce the risk of rabies exposure to your family and pets:

  • Vaccinate pets and keep those shots up to date. Maryland law requires rabies shots for all dogs, cats and ferrets over the age of four months.
  • Don't feed pets outdoors. Even the odor of pet food can attract wildlife.
  • Secure trash cans and dumpster lids to discourage animals from foraging for food.
  • Remove strays, especially stray cats, which compete with wildlife for food and are more likely to be exposed to rabid raccoons.

The Worcester Health Department has posted additional information about rabies and rabies investigations here.

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