A raccoon that attacked an Ellicott City woman in her home earlier this week tested positive for rabies, according to the Howard County Health Department.
The results came in Friday afternoon, according to Lisa M. de Hernández, a health department spokeswoman. The raccoon was collected Thursday and sent to the Maryland Department of Health for expedited testing.
Raccoon attacks on people “are not common, but do happen,” she wrote in email.
Howard County police responded to a Green Spring Court home at approximately 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman.
When an officer arrived at the home, he got the raccoon outside and the animal tried to attack him, Llewellyn said. The officer was not bit.
Dolores Cascio said in an interview Friday she was bit on her left thumb and her left buttock. Her left thumb is still swollen and she can’t bend it.
“That raccoon bit so hard on my thumb that it [the animal] was hanging off my thumb,” Cascio said.
Wanting to spend some time outside working in her backyard, Cascio heard a shrieking sound before coming face to face with the raccoon. She threw a chair at the animal and began screaming at the top of her lungs.
“I got away, but it was the most horrifying experience,” she said.
She has never seen a raccoon in her neighborhood before.
Cascio will have to get a series of rabies vaccinations on the third, seventh, 14th and 28th days past the incident because the raccoon tested positive for rabies.
Rabies, a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system, is commonly found in raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats and groundhogs in Maryland, according to the county health department.
The health department recorded 704 rabies cases in 2018.
Rabies in animals causes changes in behavior and paralysis, including the muscles of the throat and jaw becoming paralyzed, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Animals may become unusually friendly or very aggressive.
If someone comes in contact with an animal that could have rabies, they should immediately wash any wounds with soap and water and go to their doctor or an emergency room.
The health department asks people to report animal bites or even an encounter with an animal, no matter what kind of animal it is, de Hernandez said.
It is important to keep pets such as cats, dogs and ferrets up to date on their rabies vaccinations, de Hernandez said.
Howard police handles reports of animals that appear to be sick, injured or a threat to public safety.
When asked how often have police been called in for a home raccoon incident, Llewellyn said there is no tracking system for the locations of calls about raccoons.
The health department did not issue a warning in this case because the animal was captured.
Health department officials did speak with residents of the neighborhood and are asking anyone else who may have come in contact with the raccoon to contact them at 410-313-6300.