Stearns County raccoon tests positive for rabies virus

Publish Date

A raccoon in Stearns County tested positive for rabies on August 23. This is the first Minnesota raccoon to test positive for the rabies virus since 1993. The dead juvenile raccoon was found by a woman in her yard on June 26. That same day, she observed her indoor/outdoor cat limping and assumed the cat had fought with and killed the raccoon. The cat was examined by a veterinarian on June 28. The attending veterinarian re-vaccinated the cat for rabies and submitted the raccoon for rabies testing.

Staff at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory discovered the raccoon died from a gunshot wound to the head. The bullet damaged the brain resulting in an unsatisfactory direct fluorescent antibody test for rabies. In accordance with standard protocol, the Minnesota Department of Health Public Health Testing Laboratory retained brain tissue from the raccoon until August, when staff conducted a polymerase chain reaction test, which confirmed infection. DNA sequencing identified a skunk variant of the virus.

The cat received post-exposure vaccination on June 28 and was confined and observed for 45 days. The owner confirmed on August 24 that the cat appears healthy.

The Minnesota Department of Health confirmed no human exposure to the raccoon.

This case serves as a reminder that although rare, raccoons are at risk of contracting and spreading the rabies virus. Any suspect animal should be submitted promptly for rabies testing and veterinarians should take care to follow proper submission procedures. All dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses should be vaccinated against the rabies virus.  In the event that pets are exposed or potentially exposed, rabies vaccine should be boostered within 96 hours of exposure.

For additional information on rabies in animals and to view a map of positive cases in Minnesota visit the Board’s website at this link. For questions on rabies exposure to domestic animals call 651-201-6808. If you have questions concerning rabies exposure in people, please contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414.

Graph of rabies in racoons in Minnesota