Raccoons attack two people, pets in Easthampton

Staff Writer
Published: 9/14/2021 8:15:49 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Raccoons have attacked two people in the area of Clark and East Green streets in less than a week, with one of the animals already having tested positive for rabies.

City Health Director Bri Eichstaedt said a raccoon went into a yard and into a garage on Friday. A person was bit, a dog was scratched, and three dogs and one cat were exposed or exposed by proximity.

Eichstaedt said the people who called the raccoon in to authorities “did everything right,” and that police arrived on scene and killed the animal.

A sample of the raccoon was sent to the state rabies lab, and has come back positive for rabies.

On Monday, another raccoon in the same area scratched another person. That person killed the raccoon and a sample from it was also sent to the state rabies lab. Results from that test are not yet available. 

Eichstaedt said that within the health department there is an animal inspector whose primary duty is to quarantine animals that have been exposed to wildlife. She said that 44 cats and dogs were quarantined because of exposure to wildlife in 2020 in Easthampton.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, “if a person does not receive the appropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death.” Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pets, staying away from wildlife, and seeking medical care after potential exposures before symptoms start, the CDC states.

Raccoons, bats, woodchucks, foxes, skunks and  household cats are all carriers of rabies in Massachusetts, Eichstaedt said. She noted that people should keep their dogs and cats under control and should steer clear of wild animals.

“Don’t feed wildlife, stay away from it,” she said.

She also said that if a wild animal scratches or bites a person, it will need to be killed to check for rabies.

As for animals acting strangely, the health department only responds if there’s been a suspected rabies exposure.

“Leave it alone,” Eichstaedt said.

She did say, however, that other entities, such as the police, may respond. If a person or their pet gets exposed to wildlife, they can contact the Easthampton Police Department at 413-527-1212.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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