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NEW YORK - A viral outbreak causing “zombie-like” behavior has killed at least 26 raccoons in Central Park since June, officials said.
Two of the 26 carcasses tested positive for canine distemper, a virus that spreads to unvaccinated dogs and other animals, The New York Post reported. The untested raccoons are believed to have been infected as well because of the timing and close locations of their deaths, city health and parks department officials told the Post Saturday. None of the animals tested positive for rabies.
“They looked like they were circulating, wandering, having spasms,” Dr. Sally Slavinski, an assistant director at the Health Department, told the Post. “Some of the raccoons had some sort of nasal discharge.”
The first animal was discovered June 24, while the most recent was Saturday.
Canine distemper attacks the nervous system. Infected raccoons can appear tame, confused and uncoordinated. The highly contagious virus can spread among animals through sneezing or coughing and using shared food or water bowls.
The virus does not affect humans but can be spread to unvaccinated dogs and puppies. It can also affect other animals at the park, including foxes, wolves, coyotes and skunks, as well as big cats like the snow leopard at the Central Park Zoo.