So, a woman walks into a bar carrying a raccoon in Maddock, North Dakota recently.  It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it really happened and it caused officials to issue a statewide rabies alert.  It sounds kind of made up, but I guess it's a real thing according to a press release from the AP.

Here's what we know so far.  A woman walked into a bar in Maddock, North Dakota last week.  The bartender, Cindy Smith said she was serving up drinks for happy hour at the time of the incident.  There were about 10 people in the bar.  Maddock is a pretty small town.  It has about 400 residents and is located about 40 miles southwest of Devils Lake, North Dakota.

Smith said she immediately asked the woman to leave but the woman went to show her pet raccoon to another customer.  After about 5 minutes the woman left.  According to the bartender, the animal never left her arm and there was absolutely no biting.

Despite that, word got out, and an alert was issued Tuesday by North Dakota's Health and Human Services Department.  They're asking if anyone who may have been bitten or had contact with the raccoon's saliva to seek medical care.

According to the AP article, “Because rabies is such a serious disease with a nearly 100% fatality rate, we are making this information available to the public as a precautionary measure,” epidemiologist Amanda Bakken said in a statement.

Raccoons are one of two animals that are illegal to own as a pet in North Dakota (the other skunk).  You can read all about that here.  However, they are legal as pets in South Dakota where I have a lake cabin, and our neighbors raised a pair of young coons who lost their mother.  I got to spend some time with them this summer and I have to admit, I fell in love with them.  They're so stickin' cute.

Rick Rider
Rick Rider

So if rabies has a nearly 100% fatality rate, just how common is it for animals to get rabies?  According to Zoetis, some common animals that are carriers of rabies include bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.  Pets get rabies by getting bitten by or coming into contact with the saliva of an infected animal.

A common misconception however is that ALL raccoons have rabies.  Just how common is it?  It's tough to know for sure since the only real test comes from brain tissue, so you need a dead animal.  According to Critter Detective, rabies transmission to individuals from raccoons is extremely rare.  How rare, try only ONE recognized case in the HISTORY of the United States where somebody died from contact with a raccoon.  You are much more likely to get rabies from a dog or cat than from a raccoon.

I decided to do a little more digging and according to the CDC, since 2009 it looks like 3 people have died from rabies from the bite of a raccoon in the United States.  Still, extremely rare.

The whole rabies alert from the state sounds a little over the top in my opinion.



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