PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention is urging Maine residents to remain cautious and aware of rabid wild animals.
The warning comes as an uptick in rabid animal cases has been seen so far this year, a news release from the Maine CDC said.
According to the Maine CDC, there have been 30 confirmed cases of rabies in raccoons, skunks, bats, a fox, and a woodchuck between January and May. Of those 30 cases, 12 were in Cumberland County.
"Rabies activity was significantly lower in 2022, with a total of 35 cases for the year," the release said.
The virus, which affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals, is spread through a bite from an infected animal, according to the release. A scratch from an infected animal can also spread the virus. It does not, however, spread through blood, urine, feces, skunk spray, or dried saliva, the release stated.
In Maine, the most common mammals to contract rabies are raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats, the Maine CDC said.
"A rabid animal may show a variety of symptoms or no symptoms at all," the release said. "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 listed the following tips to keep yourself and your pet protected 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.
The Maine CDC listed the following as who you should call if you come into contact with rabies:
- 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 & Wildlife.
- The Maine CDC is also available to answer questions.
You can also call the 24/7 Maine CDC disease reporting and consultation line at 1-800-821-5821.