PALERMO — After an encounter with a dog, a raccoon found in town was confirmed to have rabies.

Megan Porter, a veterinarian and public health educator for Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, sent a letter to the Town Office saying a raccoon from Palermo had been tested Aug. 18, and found to have the viral disease known as rabies.

When asked where the raccoon had been discovered, the Office of Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory declined to answer, saying it is not their policy to disclose the locations where rabid animals are found.

In her letter, Porter went on to say rabies is common in wild animals, remind people to keep animals up to date on rabies vaccinations, and cautioned against touching wildlife.

According to Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the rabies virus lives in the saliva, brain and spinal cord of infected animals. Exposure to rabies happens when the saliva or neural tissue of a rabid animal comes in contact with a person or animal through a bite or scratch orcut in the skin, or gets into someone’s eyes, nose or mouth. Rabies is not spread by petting or touching dried saliva, blood, urine or feces of a rabid animal.

The most commonly infected animals in Maine are skunks, raccoons, bats and foxes. Most cases of rabies in the state are found in Cumberland County, according to the Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory. This year Cumberland County has had 14 rabies cases, including two bats, three grey foxes, five raccoons and four skunks.

In comparison, Waldo County has had just two cases so far this year — a bat in Frankfort in May and the Palermo raccoon in August.

Robert Long, spokesman for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said his office received a report that a dog was exposed as a result of an encounter with a rabid raccoon in Palermo recently.

The dog, he said, received a rabies booster and will be under observation for 45 days. He added that no humans were exposed.

Palermo Town Office posted on its website, “At this time, it is recommended you take extra precautions: keep dogs on a closer leash; fasten trash can lids tightly and do not leave pet food outside; and especially avoid contact with wild or unfamiliar animals.”

Palermo Animal Control Officer Peter A. Nerber said he had not heard of the recent rabid raccoon or that it involved a dog. Additionally, Waldo County Sheriff Jeff Trafton said his office had had no recent reports of a rabid racoon in Palermo or the surrounding area.

For more information on rabies, visit  maine.gov/dhhs/rabies or call Maine CDC at 800-821-5821. To download an Excel spreadsheet listing each rabies case for 2021 by county, visit  tinyurl.com/22v53m4r.

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