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This rescued baby raccoon got lots of attention. Now 21 people need rabies shots

A baby raccoon like this one was abandoned by its mother and got lots of human attention. But the raccoon tested positive for rabies, and now 21 people need post-exposure rabies treatment.
A baby raccoon like this one was abandoned by its mother and got lots of human attention. But the raccoon tested positive for rabies, and now 21 people need post-exposure rabies treatment. File photo, The Wichita Eagle

A baby raccoon may have been abandoned by its mother, but it was loved by some humans.

A Colorado woman found the baby raccoon on her property and brought it into her home, according to a Monday release from the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment.

And people just had to see the critter inside her home — 21 people, to be exact.

"This was a baby wild animal, so I think there was some heightened interest to seeing a baby animal in the home," health department supervisor Rachel Freeman told the Greeley Tribune.

Then the rescued baby raccoon tested positive for rabies, and all 21 people who came in contact with it were exposed to the viral disease.

"It's unusual to see that," Freeman told the Greeley Tribune. This was the largest rabies exposure case in Weld County, the release states.

The rescued, rabid raccoon was euthanized for rabies testing, KUSA reported, and 21 people are undergoing rabies post-exposure treatment.

That treatment consists of one dose of immune globulin and four doses of a rabies vaccine throughout a 14-day period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Current vaccines are relatively painless and are given in your arm, like a flu or tetanus vaccine," the CDC states. The first vaccine should be given as soon as possible after a person is exposed to rabies.

Rabies can be transmitted through saliva or by brain and nervous system tissue, according to the CDC. It infects the nervous system and can cause a brain disease or death.

Freeman told the Associated Press that the 21 people are doing OK, "but this case should serve as a cautionary tale."

Every year, the CDC reports that most rabies cases are in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks and bats.

But this year in Weld County, the health department has seen a high number of rabies exposure in animals.

“We’re not just seeing typical skunk or bat rabies this year,” Mark E. Wallace with the Weld County Health Department said in the release. “We’re concerned about the growing number of cases among other animals such as raccoons and cats.”

In Colorado, it is illegal to house "just about all species of wildlife" without permits and licenses.

This raccoon wasn't the first one to capture human interest in recent months, though.

Just last week a peanut butter-loving raccoon "tried to thank" an Indiana officer who helped the critter wiggle out of the jar that its head was trapped inside of. The actions were caught on video.

Last month in Minnesota, a raccoon was safely captured and released after reaching the rooftop of a skyscraper more than 20 stories high. People around the world watched minute-by-minute updates regarding the "#MPRraccoon" as it climbed up the wall of the skyscraper.

That same day, a raccoon that was up high on a telephone pole was nearly shot by a Colorado man — but the man missed, and shot himself by mistake instead.

A Danville, Indiana, police officer helped a racoon scurrying in the road get free from a peanut butter jar the animal’s head was stuck in on Wednesday night, body camera video shows.

A raccoon in St. Paul Minnesota got attention for climbing an office tower in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. Social media users are using the hashtag #mprraccoon to track the raccoon that scaled more than 20 stories.

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