The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has confirmed three cases of canine distemper in raccoons found in Frankfort. (File photo)

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has confirmed canine distemper in a wild raccoon collected from Frankfort’s east side.

The confirmation followed resident report of raccoons that appeared to be sick. Canine distemper is not transmissible to people, but unvaccinated dogs are at risk, officials said.

Here are some commonly asked questions:

What is canine distemper?

Canine distemper is caused by a virus and often occurs in raccoons, gray foxes, coyotes and, occasionally, skunks. Common symptoms in infected animals include respiratory distress, coughing, sneezing, watery discharge from the eyes and nose, crusty footpads and diarrhea.

Infected animals may also convulse, tremor, stagger, have chewing fits, become emaciated (thin) and lose fear of people. Some symptoms of distemper are similar to rabies, so anyone who comes in contact with, is bitten or scratched by a wild animal should call their health provider or the Franklin County Health Department to report a possible exposure.

What should I do if I see a sick raccoon?

Wildlife officials advise against attempting to capture or handle any sick wildlife. The canine distemper virus is primarily transmitted by contact with bodily fluids and feces from infected animals; however, transmission via environmental contamination also is possible.

Residents who see or encounter a raccoon that appears to be sick are encouraged to contact a nuisance wildlife control operator. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s ability to respond to reports of sick animals is determined by staff availability, so nuisance wildlife control operators are permitted by the department to provide professional wildlife control assistance for a fee.

To look up a nuisance wildlife control operator in the area, visit app.fw.ky.gov/nuisancecontrol. There are 11 who serve Franklin County.

Is it a risk to people?

Canine distemper is not transmitted to people. However, raccoon feces can contain parasites which can infect people, especially small children, causing serious illness and organ damage. Care should be taken when cleaning up raccoon feces to avoid contact with skin and mucous membranes.

Is it a risk to pets and other animals?

Unvaccinated dogs are susceptible, and pet owners should keep their pet’s vaccinations current. Those who feed pets outdoors should remove any leftover food. It can attract infected animals not completely debilitated by the disease and increase the risk of transmission to other uninfected animals.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife discourages the feeding of raccoons and feral cats. Concentrating these animals in small areas make disease transmission more likely. Canine distemper is typically fatal to infected animals. 

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