The Health Department and NYC Parks have confirmed that raccoons in Central Park have been infected with "distemper."
The NY Post reported that 26 raccoons have died since June 24th: "Two tested positive for the canine distemper virus, which doesn’t affect humans but can spread to unvaccinated dogs, officials with the city Health and Parks departments revealed on Saturday. The other 24 are believed to be infected by distemper because their deaths were clustered in such a short time and area."
Testing continues on the remaining raccoons; 13 tested negative while 9 other results are still being waited on. Three deceased raccoons could not be tested due to advanced decay or the condition of the carcass. The most recent dead raccoon was found on Saturday.
Most of the raccoons collected were found in the northern section of the park, between East 93rd to 110th Street and Lenox Ave., while others have been found near East 72nd Street and in the south between Delacort Theater, the reservoir and Grand Army Plaza.
the central park raccoons are the only thing that make living in nyc bearable
God’s perfect creature pic.twitter.com/RlxyBOzZWp
— m͂ͪ̀͡e̵̡ͧ̏g̑̊̔ͥ̉ͭ͢ (@ScorpiiAlpha) June 26, 2018
Some Parks employees have seen raccoons exhibit distemper symptoms; Dr. Sally Slavinski of the NYC Health Department told the Post, "They looked like they were circulating, wandering, having spasms. Some of the raccoons had some sort of nasal discharge."
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, "Canine distemper is a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs. The virus can also be found in wildlife such as foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, mink and ferrets and has been reported in lions, tigers, leopards and other wild cats as well as seals...Puppies and dogs most often become infected through airborne exposure (through sneezing or coughing) to the virus from an infected dog or wild animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment. Infected dogs can shed the virus for months, and mother dogs can pass the virus through the placenta to their puppies."
Crystal Howard of the Parks Department tells us, "There is no concern for pets if their vaccinations are up to date. DOHMH requires rabies vaccine for all dogs and cats. Dogs are required to be vaccinated for distemper and a few other things only if attending a boarding or grooming facility. However, it is a core canine vaccine that is routinely administered to puppies and updated as needed in adults. We ask the public to call 311 to request NYC Parks Rangers if they see a sick or injured raccoon."
Raccoons with distemper can act disoriented and lethargic and may become aggressive. The Health Department is continuing to monitor the situation.