Rabies is a fatal viral disease that can affect all warmblooded animals including man. Rabies is primarily transmitted by the bite of infected animals. Rabies may also be transmitted by scratches or when saliva or central nervous system tissue (i.e., brain, spinal cord) from a rabid animal gets into an open wound or mucous membrane (eyes, nose, or mouth). Rabies is not transmitted by contact with urine, feces, blood, or scent glands.
Symptoms of rabies in animals vary, but they often include changes in behavior such as unprovoked aggression, unusual friendliness, paralysis or uncoordination, excessive drooling, disorientation, and aimless daytime wandering. Note that even healthy nocturnal animals such as raccoons are sometimes active during the day, and this behavior should not in itself be reason to believe an animal is sick.
Since 1991, Connecticut has experienced an outbreak of rabies in wild animals. Raccoons are the primary carrier and most commonly affected animal. However, rabies cases in other wild and domestic animals such as skunks, woodchucks, foxes, bats, cats, dogs, horses, sheep, and cows have been reported. Squirrels, rabbits, and mice are seldom affected by rabies. Birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and insects do not get this disease.
If you are bitten, scratched, or think you have been exposed to rabies, wash the exposed area thoroughly with soap and warm water and contact your doctor or emergency clinic immediately. If possible, without further risk of exposure, capture or destroy the wild animal without damaging its head, and immediately report the incident to the local police or animal control officer. If you are unable to contact local authorities, call the DEEP at 860-424-3333 for guidance. NWCOs may also be able to assist with human exposure cases by capturing suspect animals and assisting with transport for rabies testing. Note that treatment for rabies exposure is highly effective if administered promptly and consists of a series of six relatively painless injections.