BROOKLYN — The city’s Department of Health has put Bensonhurst on rabies watch after a dead raccoon tested positive for the deadly viral disease.
Officials say that the infected animal, which was found 16th Avenue near 78th Street, may have infected feral cats and kittens before it died.
Animal Care and Control picked up the raccoon on Aug. 15 after a resident called about it. The animal was then tested by the Health Department, which got the results back Tuesday.
The infected raccoon died after attacking some feral cats, an agency spokesman said.
The DOH, in a notice released Wednesday, warns residents to protect themselves and their pets and keep away from “wild animals like raccoons, bats and stray cats, especially if they look sick or act strangely.”
Anyone bitten by an animal should immediately clean the wound and then talk to a doctor, the notice says. It also says to call 311 if you or your pet were bitten or if you see a stray animal that looks sick.
Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents the area, said he is urging residents “to pay extra attention” while walking around the neighborhood.
“My focus at this point is to make sure the community is aware of this situation so that residents can take necessary precautions to protect themselves and their family, especially pets and children,” he said.
Rabies, which infects the central nervous system, is most often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. It is almost always fatal if left untreated.
Early symptoms of rabies in humans include headache, fever, and irritability, which is followed by hallucinations and convulsions.
Rabies rarely infects humans. There has been no human case of rabies in New York City for more than 50 years, according to the DOH.
Last year, there were 56 cases of rabid animals citywide, Health Dept. data shows.
Staten Island saw an uptick in rabid animals in 2013, leading the boroughs with 49 confirmed cases, according to the city. The Bronx had 3, Brooklyn and Manhattan had 2, and Queens had none.