WASHINGTON — A wild groundhog caught on the grounds of the Maryland Zoo on July 8 had rabies, the Maryland Department of Health confirmed, and officials are warning those who may have touched the animal to contact the department.
Zoo staff found the groundhog, which was not a part of the zoo’s animal collection, in the Maryland Wilderness section of the zoo. The groundhog followed a visitor around before being captured by zoo staff, officials said.
The animal was diagnosed with rabies by the Maryland Department of Health, prompting officials to encourage anyone who touched or was touched by a groundhog between June 24 and July 8 to get a risk assessment. Those concerned can call the Department of Health between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 410-767-5649, or 410-795-7365 outside regular business hours.
Rabies are transmitted in the saliva of an infected animal. People exposed to the saliva of an infected animal can prevent transmission of the disease by getting a series of vaccines. The vaccines are provided over a 14-day period.
In 2017, more than 110 animals were diagnosed with rabies in Maryland. The diagnosed animals include raccoons, bats, foxes and four other groundhogs. To prevent exposure to the disease, officials recommend the following:
- Vaccinate your pets against rabies.
- Keep pets under your watch.
- Maintain a safe distance from wildlife.
- Avoid animals acting in an unusual manner.
- Cover garbage cans and don’t leave pet food outside.
- Don’t touch wild animals that enter your home. Contact your local health department or animal control for help.
- Call your local health department or animal control immediately if you or your pet are exposed to a rabid animal.