In recent weeks there have been frequent sightings of wild animals, particularly raccoons roaming around campus during the day and at night. While some of these animals may appear tame and unfazed by human interaction, they may, in actuality, suffer from a virus known as Rabies.
According to the Town of Hamden’s Official Web Site, www.hamden.com, 5,000 animals in the state of Connecticut have tested positive for Rabies since 1991 when the virus first began spreading to the East Coast. Of these 5,000 cases 4,000 were raccoons. The remaining thousand were mostly skunks, both of which are prevalent on the Quinnipiac University campus.
The Rabies virus can be found in the saliva of infected animals and enters the victim through a skin puncture or open wound of some sort, most commonly a bite. The disease then attacks the central nervous system.
In humans, symptoms of Rabies in humans include initial flu-like symptoms followed by convulsions, hallucinations, paralysis, breathing failure, and almost always death. In order to be treated, victims must be injected with vaccine immediately after possible exposure. Once the onset of symptoms occurs, the disease becomes untreatable.
Rochester University’s safety site, www.safety.rochester.edu, says that if any wild animal, especially a raccoon, appears tame or begins approaching people, displays aggressive behavior, is partially paralyzed, most often in their hind legs, has difficulty swallowing, or appears during the day, it most likely is showing signs of Rabies.
Although unusual since raccoons are nocturnal, or night-dwelling, animals, their appearance during the day is not, in itself, a tell-tale sign of Rabies.
Students are advised to stay away from any wild animal, event if it appears friendly, refrain from taunting the animals, and report any dangerous animal activity, as direct or indirect contact with a rabid animal can cause infection.
If you, or anyone you know, is bitten by a wild animal, you should call the on-campus emergency number 111 or contact the Hamden Police Animal Control division at 203-230-4000.