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Rabid raccoon trapped in Nassau, health officials say

A raccoon trapped in Nassau County has rabies, the first confirmed case on Long Island since 2007, authorities said Thursday in issuing a public health alert.

The raccoon was collected this week by a licensed wildlife trapper in a residential area of Hicksville and its head was sent to the state health department laboratory for testing, said county health spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain.

“We were a little surprised by it,” she said of the results. “We will definitely intensify our surveillance, which means monitoring and picking up and testing any animals that have been found dead or acting out of the ordinary.”

She said the rabies results took authorities aback because the raccoon was not found near the border with Queens, which has had cases in recent years, and not in the northern half of the county, where most of the rabies cases were confirmed in the past. There were 67 rabid raccoons in Nassau between 2004, when the disease first appeared, and 2007, county officials said.

County and state health officials are discussing what other steps to take, Laurain said. In the fall, after rabid raccoons were found in Queens, Nassau left rabies vaccine bait packets in streams, woods and other raccoon habitats in the southwest part of the county.

Another raccoon was found alive but barely moving last month in a Hicksville yard, and Nassau police euthanized it. It was not clear Thursday night if the animal was tested for rabies.

Rabies is transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal or when its saliva gets into a cut or wound on the skin. Signs of rabies include wandering aimlessly and paralysis, but such symptoms may also stem from distemper and certain poisons.

County health officials urge people to keep pets on leashes, make sure they are vaccinated for rabies, avoid getting near wildlife that may carry rabies and wear gloves to dispose of dead animals.

People should not feed wildlife but keep garbage cans tightly covered and avoid storing food outside, authorities said.

While raccoons are more active at night, it’s not a sign that they’re infected if the animals are seen in daytime. “Right now, a lot of them have had babies, and they’re out looking for food to feed them,” Laurain said.

Rabies in New York State spread explosively among raccoons in the early 1990s, leading residents, trappers and municipalities to kill many of them. It’s now against state law to rescue and rehabilitate raccoons, except for those licensed to care for animals that could spread rabies.

Anyone with questions or a raccoon that should be picked up should call the county health department at 516-227-9663 or go to