Rabid raccoons spotted in Central Park

January 21, 2010 4:23:30 PM PST
The New York City Department of Health is warning Central Park-goers to be on the lookout for rabid raccoons. Officials say at least eight infected animals have been found in the last two weeks.

Those cases, along with 12 in 2009, are a dramatic increase after only one rabid raccoon was found from 2003 to 2008.

The majority of the rabid raccoons were found in northern portions of Central Park, from 79th Street to 110th Street. Raccoons are the most commonly reported rabid animal in New York City.

"We have been working with the Parks Department and the Central Park Conservancy to remind people to stay away from wild animals--raccoons, skunks, bats, stray dogs and cats can carry rabies," Department of Health officials said in a statement to Eyewitness News. "We encourage all New Yorkers to report incidents and sightings of these animals to 311. Dog owners are also being advised to keep their animals leashed and away from possible contact with raccoons and other wild animals."

The Health Department has enhanced its surveillance efforts and plans to vaccinate the raccoon population in and around Central Park, Morningside Park and Riverside Park to reduce further spread of the virus are in development.

CLICK HERE for more information from the New York City government on confirmed rabies infections in 2010.

CLICK HERE for a map of where the infected animals were found.