TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department is reporting a possible rabies exposure that took place in the City of Ithaca recently.

“A person known to be carrying and handling a young raccoon was recently in the vicinity of West State Street,” stated the release. “The raccoon was carried in a bag and the person may have allowed others to pet or handle the young raccoon. It is not known how long this person has been in possession of the raccoon or all the locations this person may have visited.”

The health department stated that raccoons are considered a “rabies vector species” in New York, which means they’re capable of transmitting rabies for a long period of time without showing actual symptoms themselves.

“Rabies is transmitted through the saliva by bites and scratches and can be transmitted by contact with nervous system tissue,” states the press released. “Do not handle pets or objects that may be contaminated with saliva from a potentially rabid animal without wearing protective gloves. Wash your hands immediately with soap and water if you do touch the saliva. Wild animals that are injured or abandoned should be handled only by licensed wildlife control officers or rehabilitators.”

The Health Department reminds everyone to:

  1. Avoid contact with any unfamiliar cats or dogs and any wild animals.
  2. All cats, dogs and ferrets must have initial rabies vaccinations administered no later than four months of age.  Keep vaccinations current!
  3. Report the following incidents to the Tompkins County Health Department at (607) 274-6688: all animal bites or scratches; any human or pet contact with salivea or other potentially infectious material (brain tissue, spinal tissue, or cerebro-spinal fluid) of wild animals or any animal suspected of having rabies; all bat bites, scratches, or any mere skin contact with a bat, or a bat in a room with a child, or sleeping or impaired person.

The Department requests that anyone having contact with this raccoon call the Health Department at (607) 274-6688 to be evaluated for risk.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com