Health officials report influx of sick raccoons

SSU Sports Information

June 28, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Raccoons can carry diseases and authorities in the area are warning residents not to come in contact with them.

“A lot of times they appear friendly when they are sick,” Portsmouth Health Commissioner Chris Smith said. “People think, ‘oh look it’s a friendly raccoon,’ and then they play with it and they get bit and exposed.”

Both Portsmouth Animal Control officer Wendy Payton and Portsmouth Police Captain Lynn Brewer report an unusually large amount of diseased racoons in the area.

“I have picked up about six (sick raccoons) this month. I had to have them euthanized at Scioto Trail Animal Clinic,” Payton said. “We’re seeing an unusual amount of sick raccoons. I’m not quite sure if it’s related to the weather, but the veterinarian told me that it is unusual this time of the year.”

Payton said that type of activity usually occurs in August and September.

“There seems to be an alarming number of sick raccoons having to be destroyed in the north end this year,” Brewer said. “I have seen it bad in my career before but this year seems to be the worst. I am very concerned about someone being attacked or bitten by these animals.”

Brewer said the police department had to destroy two Thursday.

Payton said veterinary officials suspect the raccoons are suffering from distemper. Distemper is a contagious and serious viral illness with no known cure. The disease affects dogs, and certain species of wildlife, such as raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks. The common house pet, the ferret, is also a carrier of this virus

Payton said people need to be careful when they spot a raccoon on or near their property.

“Avoid contact, and call the Portsmouth Police Department or Animal Control at the Health Department,” Payton said. “We can take care of it.”

Payton said the City Health Department can be reached at 740-353-5153.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.