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Raccoon distemper suspected in areas of King County
King County residents are reminded to avoid feeding wildlife, keep domestic pets away from wild animals, and be sure their pets’ vaccinations are current in response to a suspected outbreak of canine distemper in area raccoons.
Samples from a raccoon captured in Bellevue have been submitted to Washington State University for disease testing, and the final results are expected early next week.
Canine distemper is not transmissible to humans but is highly contagious among dogs, ferrets and certain wild animals such as raccoons, coyotes, skunks, weasels and harbor seals. Cats are not affected by canine distemper.
“Dogs are normally vaccinated against canine distemper, but the disease has become generally uncommon, and some pet owners are not getting their pets vaccinated,” said Dr. Sharon Hopkins, the Veterinarian for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “If you have questions or concerns about your pets’ immunity to canine distemper, contact your veterinarian.”
Distemper causes encephalitis, inflation of the brain, in animals. Infected animals may have runny eyes and stagger, tremble, foam at the mouth or snap, according to veterinarians. Daytime activity by a raccoon does not necessarily indicate that the animal is sick.
In recent days, local officials in Bellevue, Redmond and Renton have received a number of reports of sick raccoons. “Wildlife disease epidemics tend to occur in cycles, appearing when animal populations are high,” said Kristin Mansfield, staff veterinarian with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
People should feed pets indoors, and secure garbage and compost to avoid attracting unwanted animals. Bird feeders and chicken food also attract raccoons. Residents should also secure pet doors so that raccoons cannot enter indoor living spaces.
The WDFW offers advice for dealing with problem wildlife on its Web site at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living. King County residents who encounter raccoons exhibiting symptoms of canine distemper can call (206) 296-PETS for information about potential resources.
Raccoons present a risk of transmitting other diseases including leptospirosis, raccoon roundworm and rabies. For information about these risks, see http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/ehs/zoonotics/raccoons.aspx.
People bitten by raccoons should contact their health care provider and Public Health at (206) 296-4774.