Rabid raccoons found in New York City for first time in eight years

Rabid raccoons have been found in Manhattan for the first time in eight years, the New York City Department of Health said this week.

Since January, four raccoons that tested positive for rabies have been discovered in and around Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan, city health officials said in a Friday announcement.

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The city’s Parks Department has posted signs in the area warning people to avoid raccoons and other wild animals that carry rabies.

The health department has not received any reports of “bites or exposures” to the rabid animals, it said.

The rabid raccoons were the first to be identified in New York City since what health officials described as a “large outbreak” from 2009 to 2011. During that time, 138 rabid raccoons were found in and near Central Park.

In 2011, to combat the spread of rabies, the city vaccinated nearly 500 raccoons.

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“Rabies is a serious illness that poses a danger for you and your pets,” Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said in the statement.

“Keep a close eye on your pets when you take them outside and if you see a wild animal – such as a raccoon – maintain a safe distance and do not approach it. Get your pets vaccinated against rabies, and if you think they’ve been bitten by a rabid animal, call 311."

Two other rabid raccoons have been found this year -- one in the Bronx and another on Staten Island.