Rabies and Diseases

morgue night raiders

Photo Morgue File


Raccoons are susceptible to rabies. The rabies virus infects their central nervous system, spreads into the brain and causes death. Rabies can be spread though bites via saliva.

What behaviors are seen in infected animals? Aggressiveness, load vocalization, and bizarre behavior have all been associated with rabies. If you observe this behavior in a raccoon call your local wildlife agency. And if you are bit or scratched by a wild raccoon see a health professional.

Before 1960 most rabies cases came from domestic animals; now most cases come from infected wildlife. Staring in Florida in the 1970s raccoons became increasingly infected with rabies. The disease spread up the East Coast of the US, so that by 2010 36% of the cases of wild animal rabies infections came from raccoons. But efforts are being made to hold the line against rabies spreading. Air drops and hand placement of raccoon bait with rabies vaccine are annually placed in raccoon habitats, and have resulted in decreased wildlife raccoon infections, and hopefully will help prevent the disease from advancing further west. Rabies in raccoons are currently found in a line roughly from Mississippi northward.

Human infections from rabies has dropped dramatically. The Center for Disease Control, which is charged with collection information from health agencies on rabies prevalence, notes that the incidence of human death from rabies has dropped from 100 or more a year at the turn of last century, to only 1 or 2 per year currently. And these few deaths come from those who were not aware of being infected and took no action. If properly treated rabies is curable nearly 100% of the time. Public awareness and the near universal requirement for dogs to be vaccinated against rabies has resulted in this dramatic decline.

Raccoon Tracks

Photo Morgue File

Baylisascaris Procyonis Roundworm

Baylisascaris procyonis roundworm is found in raccoon feces. It can infect raccoons without the raccoon showing any symptoms, with 70% of adult raccoons and 90% of juvenile raccoons showing infestation. The roundworm creates eggs in the raccoons intestine, up to 150,000 per day, and the eggs are released into the environment by feces. The roundworm can infect and sicken other creatures, migrating to their brains, but only reproduces in raccoons.

Eggs are produced by the worm while in the intestine, and the released eggs will mature to an infective state externally in the soil. When an infected egg is ingested, the larvae will hatch and enter the intestine.

Human infection is rare, but has occurred, primarily in children consuming contaminated soils.

If raccoon poop is found in your area be careful not to expose yourself. If soil in a garden area is contaminated humans can be exposed. Removing possibly infected soil is a proper precaution, but be careful not to breathe any dust, and wear a protective mask.

Other Diseases

Distemper is the most common cause of disease in raccoons. Although fatal to them and other creatures, humans are not affected. raccoons can also be infected with leptospirosis, listeriosis, tetanus, and tularemia.