A woman from Weld County in Colorado inadvertently exposed 21 people to rabies. The incident is considered the largest rabies-exposure case in the county. Weld County officials announced details of a wildlife rescue attempt that ended up exposing a large number of people to rabies. Apparently, a woman found and rescued an abandoned baby raccoon on her property and decided to take it to her home.
Unfortunately, the baby raccoon eventually tested positive for rabies, but not before being exposed to 21 people in total. All the individuals who were exposed are receiving post-exposure treatments, which includes one dose of immune globulin and four doses of the anti-rabies vaccine to be given over a 14-day period.
According to the Executive Director of the Weld County Health Department, Mark E. Wallace, MD, MPH, this year has seen a high number of rabies exposure in animals, which is why the public is advised not to go near or touch wild animals. The same advice was given after a woman touched a dead rabid bat with her bare hands just last June. She was also given the post-exposure treatments.
This so-called spillover increases the risk of human rabies infection, especially in the summer, when rabies cases are more common than in other seasons. As the disease may affect all mammals, including humans, it is important to keep family members as well as pets protected from wild-animal encounters and to keep pets’ rabies vaccinations up to date.
The county health department advises the public to not feed, touch or handle wild animals and to leave baby animals alone, even if they appear orphaned, as they often are not. In many cases, the baby animal’s parent will return even hours later but may refuse to do so because people are too near. Despite appearances, the baby animals will still survive better if in their natural habitat.
“If you see a baby raccoon that appears to have lost its mother, your first reaction is to pick it up and help it. However, by touching, feeding or ‘rescuing’ a wild animal, you may do more harm than good,” said Wallace.