Just a friendly warning, people. Two raccoons found in Easthampton have tested positive for the rabies virus and even though Hampshire County is a good distance away from us here in the Berkshires, sometimes rabies has a way of traveling fairly quickly.

WTEN/News 10 Albany reports that raccoons have attacked two people in Easthampton in less than a week and in both incidents, the raccoons have tested positive for rabies. The Easthampton Department of Health said they were initially notified last Friday of one human and two domestic pet exposures to an infected raccoon.

According to the City Health Director, a raccoon went into a yard and into a garage on Friday. One person was bit and a dog got scratched. Also, three dogs and one cat were exposed. The occupants of the residence proceeded to call the authorities. Shortly thereafter, police arrived on the scene and killed the animal.

After sending a sample of the raccoon to the rabies lab, the results came back positive for rabies. This past Monday in approximately the same area, another raccoon attacked and scratched a human. That raccoon was also killed and a sample was sent along to the lab. This second raccoon also tested positive for rabies.

Rabies is a deadly virus that spreads to humans usually through the bite of an infected animal. Symptoms include fever, headache, excess salivation, muscle spasms, paralysis, and mental confusion. If a person does not receive the appropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death.

There is no specific treatment for rabies but a vaccine can help prevent infection. Keep in mind that it is very rare for people in the US to get rabies. Of the approximately 55,000 people who die every year from rabies, only one or two of those deaths happen in the States.

Still, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Remember, you can't tell if an animal has rabies just by looking at it. Sometimes a rabid animal will act very strangely, other times it will act just fine. To be safe, just steer clear of wild animals.

If you or your pet are bitten or scratched by a wild animal, first things first: Thoroughly clean the wound with soap and water and immediately call your doctor or the local board of health. They can inform you of what to do next.

For more on the story, visit WTEN's website here.

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