NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some Nassau County residents are taking steps to protect their families and pets after health officials caught a rabid raccoon earlier this week.

The raccoon was captured in a residential Hicksville neigborhood, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported. It was the first raccoon with rabies found in the county in nine years.

Some residents are now making sure pets are current on their rabies booster shots.

“You have a lot of raccoons, and they’re always intertwining with other animals,” one man said.

“It’s terrifying,” said Lisa Castro, a dog owner. “You want to make sure that you keep your dog safe.”

Dr. Jason Mansfield of South Shore Animal Hospital said booster shots are required for dogs, cats and ferrets.

“Rabies is 100 percent fatal in all mammals that it affects,” he said.

“If there was one rabid animal that was found, it had to come from somewhere. So the bigger concern is there may be more.”

Nassau County had all but eradicated rabies after a spate of rabid raccoons a decade ago. But recent New York City cases prompted Nassau officials to drop vaccination baits near the city line.

The appearance of a rabid raccoon, though, in the core of Nassau has the Health Department perplexed but not alarmed.

“Animals can travel on the backs of trucks or be transported some other way, so it’s not a surprise terribly,” said Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein. “It’s just been a long time, but we’re prepared.”

To help protect your family and pets from rabid raccoons:
Keep garbage pails covered
Avoid contact with feral animals
Keep pets on leashes or in view.

“Dont’ assume that a fence is going to keep a raccoon out,” Eisenstein said. “Raccoons can dig under a fence.”

Residents are also being urged to report any strange raccoon behavior.

Eisenstein said signs of a potentially rabid raccoon include “walking around in circles, just staying isolated in the same spot in a backyard or on a lawn, behaving aggressively towards other animals.”

The Health Department, which tests hundreds of animals for rabies each year, says it is stepping up surveillance and likely begin a new round of planting vaccination bait packets in the woods to keep pets and humans safe.

Health officials say there hasn’t been a human case of rabies in New York state in more than five years.

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