Raccoons, among other wild animals, can carry diseases without appearing to be sick, so it is important to enjoy wildlife from a distance, says the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. (COURTESY PHOTO)

CONWAY — The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is requesting the public's help in locating a man from Massachusetts who came in contact with a baby raccoon that later died of rabies.

The health officials want to assess the man's risk for rabies, a disease that can be fatal if not treated, and determine his need for treatment to prevent illness.

Health officials said the man, who was described as being in his 30s, was in Conway at about 5 p.m. on Sept. 20 and stopped to help someone remove two baby raccoons on Route 16 on the outskirts of Conway.

The location was described as "somewhere between North Bald Hill and Thorne Hill roads," according to the New Hampshire resident that the man helped.

The raccoons were brought to a wildlife rehabilitation center, where one died and was identified to have rabies. The other raccoon didn't have rabies.

Health officials said Friday that the man who handled the sick raccoon drove a pickup truck with oversized tires and Massachusetts license plates. The color of the truck could be black, dark blue or dark gray.

Officials said the man is described as having a medium build and standing about 5 feet, 8 inches or 5 feet, 9 inches tall with very short, or shaved, light-colored hair. He had tattoos on his arms and was wearing a dark T-shirt and jeans, officials said.

This person is asked to call the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services' Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at (603) 271-4496.

“We would like this individual to contact us so that we can assess his risk for acquiring rabies while handling the baby raccoon and to help determine whether he might need treatment to prevent rabies,” said New Hampshire State Epidemiologist, Dr. Benjamin Chan.

“Rabies is a fatal illness that is transmitted through direct contact with the saliva of an infected animal, but administering rabies vaccine and immune globulin after an exposure can prevent disease.”

Rabies virus is transmitted through direct contact with saliva from an infected animal; this can occur through a bite, scratch, broken skin or mucous membrane exposure (e.g., contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth).

Rabies occurs worldwide, and although human infections are extremely rare in the United States, infections occur when people are scratched or bitten by an infected animal and do not seek appropriate treatment.

Because wild animals can carry diseases without appearing to be sick, it is important to enjoy wildlife from a distance. Close contact with wildlife can spread these diseases to people and pets.

Stray domesticated animals should undergo the appropriate veterinary inspection and quarantine to prevent the spread of these diseases when they are rescued or adopted.

By law, all dogs, cats and ferrets should have up-to-date rabies vaccinations. It is highly recommended that certain livestock species also receive rabies vaccination.

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