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New York City Seal
Press Release
New York City Department of Health
Office of Public Affairs
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin/Andrew Tucker
Friday, February 1, 2002
(212) 295-5335/5336


New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH today informed New Yorkers that a raccoon left in a box outside of the Abbey Veterinary Hospital captured in the Riverdale/Kingsbridge section of the Bronx over the past weekend has tested positive for rabies. While no one is known to have been exposed to the animal, a It is not known who brought this animal to the hospital, but, given the possibility of rabies exposure, Dr. Frieden urged anyone who may have handled the animal, or who may have been bitten or scratched by it, to seek medialmedical attention immediately to determine if rabies vaccination is needed.

Dr. Frieden said, "Rabies is transmitted to humans from infected animals through a bite or, scratch, or if saliva from the animal contacts with open skin wounds or mucous membrane. Rabies immune globulin and vaccine can prevent the disease if given it is obtained promptly following a rabies exposure. The vaccine is administered in five doses, generally into an arm muscle, over a span of 28 days.

"While most wild animals are not infected with rabies, New Yorkers should always keep in mind that wild animals, by nature, are unpredictable and can carry diseases such as rabies. Children and pets in particular should be watched closely to ensure that they do not attempt to touch raccoons or any other wild animals such as woodchucks, foxes, skunks, and bats," Dr. Frieden continued.

Dogs and cats that have not been protected by rabies vaccinations can contract rabies from wild animals. "Unimmunized pets can pass rabies along to their human owners. Dog owners in particular should take seriously their responsibility and make sure dogs receive their rabies vaccination - and are licensed. Vaccination can protect not only your pet's life, but also your own," Dr. Frieden concluded.

Rabies is a viral disease affecting the central nervous system. Once symptoms appear, rabies is always fatal. Symptoms normally appear between three and eight weeks after exposure. Rabies is rare in the United States; there has not been a case of human rabies in New York City in more than 50 years.

Any person who is bitten, scratched, or otherwise potentially exposed to rabies through the saliva of a wild animal should seek medical assistance as soon as possible through their doctor, an emergency room, or by consulting the Health Department's Poison Control Center for further guidance. The Health Department's Poison Control Center, operates 24 hours a day, at (212) POISONS (212) 764-7667, (212) VENENOS for Spanish speakers, or (212) 689-9014 for TDD users.

This is the second rabid raccoon found in the Bronx in 2002. In 2001, 29 raccoons, 4 skunks, 4 bats and one cat tested positive for rabies virus in New York City. To report animal bites, New Yorkers should call DOH's Animal Bite Unit at (212) 676-BITE. For dog licensing information, the contact number is (212) 676-2100. Dog licensing applications can also be obtained from our Web site at