(Buffalo, N.Y.) —- A recent distemper outbreak in raccoons in western New York, has authorities warning residents who own cats or dogs that their pets could potentially become infected if they have not been vaccinated.
There have been more than 90 reports of sick raccoons in Niagara County, infected with distemper, which is a highly contagious virus that affects the respiratory, gastro and central nervous systems.
Distemper does not affect humans, however, officials say it is still crucial for residents to be informed of the signs of a potentially sick animal.
Mark Ansel, animal control officer from the town of Tonawanda Police Department, appeared on the Buffalo Review March 23 to discuss the outbreak.
Ansel said symptoms include sneezing, coughing and being unable to walk or stand up. He said the virus may also cause an infected raccoon to be bolder than normal.
“An infected animal may lose some fear of humans only because it is a virus. If you see an animal in your yard that is acting peculiar; stay away from it,” said Ansel.
This virus is past through fresh contact with saliva, urine or blood, therefore, Ansel said avoid feeding your dog or cat outside because a raccoon could access the food.
If your dog or cat comes in contact with an infected animal, he said, immediately call the health department.
He said residents should be vigilant and also avoid feeding wild animals, because that could potentially attract them to residential areas.
“If you have apple trees in your yard or pear trees, when the apples fall on the ground, go out there and pick them up, because raccoons or deer…will come and eat them and that is usually when these problems start occurring,” said Ansel.