Raccoons Continue to Die en Masse From Viral Illness in Central Park
NEW YORK, NY — July 24, 2018
A viral outbreak is now being blamed for the deaths of more than two dozen raccoons in Central Park.
Two of the 26 raccoons found tested positive for the canine distemper virus. According to scientists, the virus doesn’t affect humans but if it's not isolated it can spread to unvaccinated dogs.
“Now I’m freaked out. Holy moly!” said Upper East Sider Bob Cucurullo, 40, who takes walks in the park with his beagle terrier Charlie. “He sees a raccoon once a week, and he goes nuts after it. Now I’ll have to be careful where I let him go.”
Most dogs are vaccinated for distemper now. The city makes sure that all dogs and cats get the rabies vaccine, but distemper immunization is only required if pups are going to a boarding or grooming facility.
The latest raccoon corpse was found at East 106th Street and East Drive on Saturday morning.
“They looked like they were circulating, wandering, having spasms,” said Dr. Sally Slavinski, an assistant director at the Health Department. “Some of the raccoons had some sort of nasal discharge.”
According to officials with the city's Health and Parks departments, the raccoons' behavior seems suspicious. They are seemingly tame or confused before losing their coordination, becoming unconscious and sometimes dying. They can also suddenly get aggressive.
Samples from two dead raccoons were sent to a state lab. None of the raccoons have tested positive for rabies so far.
Central Park skunks can get the virus too. So can coyotes, foxes, ferrets and exotic large cats, like the snow leopards at the Central Park Zoo.