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Suffolk on alert after raccoon infected with rabies found on LI

Suffolk County officials on Friday issued new guidelines for dealing with raccoons in Babylon and Huntington after a raccoon infected with rabies was spotted in Nassau.

Suffolk health commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said the county’s ongoing rabies surveillance program will be “enhanced” on the west side.

Nassau, which issued a health alert Thursday, said the diseased raccoon trapped by a licensed wildlife trapper in Hicksville was its first confirmed case since 2007.

Tomarken said Suffolk’s action sprang from “an abundance of caution.”

While it is normal for raccoons, especially mothers nursing their young, to forage for food during the day at this time of year, Huntington and Babylon residents should report any raccoons that are acting abnormally or have died to the health department, Tomarken said.

Signs of rabies include wandering aimlessly and paralysis, but such symptoms may also stem from distemper and certain poisons.

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All Suffolk residents should tell the health department if they or their pets come in contact with raccoons, he said.

The state and county require all dogs, cats and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies so they do not become infected if they are bitten or come into contact with a rabid animal’s saliva. Livestock and horses also should have current vaccinations.

Suffolk’s safeguards include ensuring lids on trash cans are secured, and keeping pets leashed and livestock confined in the evening, when raccoons are more active.

Avoid contact with wildlife or strays, which should not be fed, Tomarken said, and never touch dead or dying animals.

For now, no one, not even trappers and wildlife rehabilitators, should relocate any wild animals, he said.

Suffolk’s health department can be reached at 631-852-5900, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, call 631-852-4820.

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