Viral outbreak killing raccoons on Folly Beach, worrying experts

Viral outbreak killing raccoons on Folly Beach, animal experts worried
Published: Mar. 7, 2013 at 12:29 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2013 at 1:01 PM EST
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FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCSC) - Phone calls have been flooding into City Hall with reports of sick or dead raccoons being found in neighborhoods. East Hudson Avenue is where the most calls have come from and people are definitely worried.

Carol Linville President of Pet Helpers said, "We have had over 38 calls, I've taken some for the city or citizens calling me directly. 99 percent of what we are dealing with is a distemper virus."

Linville said the disease is definitely an outbreak. It attacks the nervous system, sometimes causing seizures and unnatural behavior in animals, often mistaken for rabies.

"Droopy eyes, weaving, rocking, slow moving acting like kind of out of it, I often say it's like you've had too much to drink," said Linville.

Outbreaks usually happen on Folly about every 10 years. In 2008, nearly 90 raccoons died. The most reported cases then and now were from the east end of the island, but Linville said its 5 years early this time.

"The animals don't have anywhere to go their food source is reduced and this all leads to stress and then you break with virus and with raccoons, distemper virus is fatal," said Linville.

Pets should be vaccinated for distemper and rabies but they should also be kept out of harm's way.

Linville said, "Bring them in. We're very fortunate on Folly and very few people that I know leave any of their dogs out at night, but they leave their cats out at night and cats are more subject to running into a raccoon.

So far there have been no confirmed cases of rabies during this outbreak but one animal has been sent off for testing. Linville said the problem is more widespread than many may think.

"This is in Hanahan, this is in Charleston County. They reported this in Mount Pleasant, so this is not just Folly Beach. Unfortunately, it's in our county," said Linville.

Rabies is serious and treatment is expensive. If left untreated, it can be fatal to humans. Veterinarians advise all pets should be vaccinated for distemper and rabies to avoid the spread of diseases.

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