Maine Seeing Uptick in Wildlife Rabies Cases

PetMD Editorial
Published: July 06, 2018
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This year, Maine is seeing an uptick in the number of rabies cases affecting wildlife. In 2017, Maine saw 67 cases of rabid animals; however, so far in 2018, they have already had 33 recorded instances of rabid animals.

In Brunswick, Maine, they just recently had their fourth rabid animal case in just three weeks, where a rabid fox aggressively went after a local man.

The Portland Herald Press reports, “Town officials are advising residents to avoid wild animals, especially if they are acting strangely, and to not leave pets or children outside unsupervised following the fourth incident involving a rabid fox in the last three weeks.”

However, the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been trying to temper panic in the area by discouraging the use of the word “epidemic” in the media. Emily Spencer, a spokeswoman for the Maine CDC explains, “I know that the word ‘epidemic’ has been floating around out there and we would say it’s a high number of cases given the time period and geographic area, but it’s not an epidemic. Maybe a cluster would be a more appropriate word.”

Many animal control officials and Maine CDC officials are working to ensure that the spike in rabies cases does not lead to knee-jerk reactions that put general wildlife populations at risk. They are quick to caution Maine residents and visitors that just because an animal is out during the day does not automatically mean that the animal has rabies.

The Portland Herald Press explains, “The big red flag is aggression. Generally, wild animals won’t interact with humans unless they are threatened.” They also explain, “And just because an animal looks mangy doesn’t mean it’s infected. Foxes are very susceptible to mange and will pluck out their fur.”

While rabies is a zoonotic disease that can spread to humans, there has not been a case of rabies in a human in Maine since 1937. However, it is still important for anyone living in or visiting Maine to be cautious and keep a safe distance from wildlife.

The primary carriers of rabies include foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats, but domestic animals can be affected as well. That is why it is especially important for pet owners to make sure their pets have up-to-date rabies vaccines.

Image via Zoltan Tarlacz/

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