Rabid raccoon outbreak in Arlington no longer contained


ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — They hide in your trash cans, trees and even sewers- raccoons are animals that are usually spotted at night, but in Arlington, these critters have been making quite a few appearances throughout the county.

“We’ve had calls for three different raccoons in the area in the last week that have been showing neurological symptoms that are a little out of the ordinary,” said Chelsea Jones from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

One of the first raccoon sightings was on Williamsburg Boulevard in the East Falls Church neighborhood. Since then, raccoons have been spotted in other neighborhoods throughout the county.

“I wouldn’t say that this is like a widespread thing. It’s only three that we’ve gotten calls about,” said Jones. “Right now, it seems to be kind of concentrated in the north Arlington area.”

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington says they have received calls about three raccoons, all of which have been caught. One raccoon has tested positive for rabies, and the others are awaiting results. Experts say that there are ways to proactively protect your pet from exposure.

“The rabies vaccination is obviously the number one tool that we have,” said Natasha Ungerer, DVM at Clarendon Animal Care. “The period of time from exposure until symptoms can be shown, it can be as little as ten days, but it won’t be much longer than that.”

In addition to the rabies vaccination, experts recommend keeping your pet indoors and avoiding raccoons if they are spotted out on a walk. If your pet has been exposed to a rabid animal, there are some warning signs to watch out for.

“The biggest thing is this inhibition of fear,” said Ungerer. “It’s what you see in foxes and raccoons that are much more likely to approach someone and attack or bite.”

Jones says that while many people associate with rabies as the classic frothing at the mouth, there are other symptoms.

“They seem disoriented, they don’t know where they are, sitting in one spot and just staring at nothing,” said Jones.

According to Jones, a vaccinated pet won’t have to adhere to the same quarantine period after potential exposure. Rabies is fatal in pets and humans if immediate medical treatment is not administered.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington says that while the community should be on the lookout, the majority of raccoons are healthy, harmless creatures.

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