PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Doctors say the last time a person in the state of Pennsylvania tested positive for rabies was back in 1984. They want to keep it that way.
Wilkinsburg resident Emily Jones says there’s a raccoon problem in her neighborhood.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Weather: Roller Coaster Of Conditions Ahead
“There’s been raccoons here since I’ve been here, but it’s getting worse now,” Jones said.
This is why doctors with the Allegheny County Health Department say it’s important to know the signs of a rabid animal and why you need to stay away when you see one.
“People are still handling wildlife by feeding raccoons, trying to pet baby raccoons and things like that, and I really want to encourage people to stay away from wild animals,” Kristen Mertz, with the Allegheny County Health Department, said.
If you do that, Mertz says you run the chance of getting bitten by an animal that could have rabies.
So far in 2015, three bats have tested positive for rabies in the North Side, Brighton Heights and the Castle Shannon/Mount Lebanon areas.
“The cases of human rabies in the U.S. are mostly bats,” Mertz said.
Two raccoons have also tested positive to rabies in Wexford and Sewickley. For more information from the Health Department on rabies, click here.READ MORE: Body Of 25-Year-Old Thomas Hughes Found In Ohio River
It’s also important to take action if you get bitten by a family pet.
“If bitten by a domestic animal, dog or cat that has an owner, it’s important to get the name of the owner and we’ll observe dog or cat for 10 days,” Mertz said.
If the animal tests positive, you must get a rabies vaccine which is a series of four shots over a two-week period.
Mertz says rabies is transmitted through an open wound or saliva.
This is why Emily Jones says she stays away when she sees a raccoon so she doesn’t risk getting bitten.
“Usually they come out at night, like sometimes I’m sitting out at night and they come up on the porch; they’re real bold,” Jones said.
Healthy raccoons typically come out at night, but if you see one in broad daylight, that’s an automatic red flag. Typical symptoms are foaming at the mouth, aggressive behavior and convulsions.MORE NEWS: Multiple People Injured In Rt. 65 Crash Near McKees Rocks Bridge