For months reports have been turning up all along the Georgia coast about people coming across sick or dying raccoons. While your mind would naturally think of rabies at a time like this, it appears that, while some cases of rabies have been reported, for the most part there has been a huge increase in raccoons falling ill with distemper. When reports of sick raccoons began cropping up in various counties and areas along the coast of Georgia, state and county officials met up with each other as well as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to figure out the authority and proper safety procedures in relation to sick and dying raccoons that needed to be implemented to deal with the worsening situation.
The Landings Association staff, different county’s animal services, representatives from the USDA, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR) all met recently to go over how to best handle the increasing number of sick and dying raccoons ill with distemper along the Georgia coast. The problem has been spreading through Skidaway Island, Chatham County, and further along the coast of Georgia, as well as in other states nearby throughout the summer and end of 2018, and now on into the spring of this year. Distemper is a virus that causes a number of unpleasant symptoms, including ones that also show in rabies such as coughing, fever, tremors, and even seizures. While officials can’t confirm that distemper is the only reason raccoons are dying off, it is often the primary cause when large numbers of raccoons suddenly begin to die-off like they are presently.
Despite the likelihood that any sick or dying raccoon someone might come across in these areas is ill with distemper, which cannot be passed on to humans the way rabies can, officials still strongly recommend that any resident that comes across a sick or dying animal (raccoons in this case) should always treat it as a potentially rabid animal. If anyone comes across one of these sick raccoons, they should always immediately call in wildlife professionals to deal with the situation. The best way to protect your pets from somehow contracting distemper from a sick wild animal is to get them vaccinated against the virus. While the distemper vaccine isn’t mandatory, as the rabies vaccine is, it is the best preventative measure to keep your furry family members safe and well.
Have you ever seen a wild animal sick with distemper or rabies? How can you tell whether an animal has rabies or distemper, and do you understand the differences between the two diseases?