Orono residents have been advised to be on alert after a raccoon tested positive for rabies.

The Town of Orono has put out an alert on its Facebook page about the raccoon that tested positive, with some important information about rabies from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is spread when an infected animal bites or deeply scratches a person or another animal. While it's less common, it can also be spread when the animal's saliva, brain, or spinal cord fluid gets into a person or animal's mouth, nose, eyes, or a cut on their skin.

While it's tough to give exact symptoms because it affects animals differently and is a progressive disease, it's fair to say that an animal who is acting in a way directly contrary to their usual demeanor could be infected.  They may seem shy or fearful and may have engaged in self-mutilation. They might be very friendly or they can be very mean. They can be seen stumbling or acting drunk, with excessive drooling.

Is It Serious if a Human is Infected?

Rabies can be deadly with no initial symptoms until the infection reaches the brain and spinal cord. While the symptoms start off mimicking the flu, they can progress to anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, and insomnia. It is treatable in humans through a series of shots, as long as it's caught early so it's important to see a doctor immediately if you think you may have been exposed to the virus.

How Can People Protect Themselves and Their Pets?

Orono residents are being urged to take precautions, starting with making sure their own pets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. People should avoid contact with all wild animals and any animal that they don't know. Never touch sick or hurt wild animals, something that should especially be taught to young children who may be inclined to approach the animal if it looks like it needs help.

Anyone in Orono who sees an animal they believe could be infected with rabies is urged to contact the local Animal Damage Control Agent at 207-631-7227.

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