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Sean leaning against a tree

Sean and the Raccoon

When Sean was 11 years old, he was camping with his class at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. While there, he was bitten by a raccoon.

"I was on a camping trip with my 5th grade class. In the middle of the night, I felt a sharp pain in my arm. I looked down and saw two bite marks and some blood. I heard a rustle like something was going out of the tent and saw a raccoon. I sat up and called for my teacher. We cleaned out the bite with soap, hot water, and a disinfectant."

"In the morning we went to the hospital in Homerville, Georgia. The pharmacist there gave me 2 shots of immune globulin, one near the bite and the other one a little further away, and a shot of rabies vaccine. These shots help your body make powerful antibodies to help fight the rabies virus."

"I had to wait one hour to be sure I didn´t have an allergic reaction to anything. When I got home, I had to get four more shots spaced out during the next month. Lots of people told me that I was really lucky because ten years ago I would have had to get 26 shots in the stomach if someone thought I might have been bitten by an animal with rabies."

"My advice? If you have the shots, don´t tense up. Just relax, because then it hurts a whole lot less. And if you´re around wild animals, don´t mess with them. And don´t feed them because later they may come back for more food. You never know if a wild animal, even a cute baby raccoon, may have rabies."

Sean was lucky because today we have a vaccine for rabies that works and is pretty painless. Back before we had a vaccine, if someone was bitten by an animal that might have rabies, there wasn´t anything that could be done except to clean the wound and wait to see what happened. If they developed rabies, they would die.

Wild animals account for 9 out of 10 rabies cases in the United States and raccoons make up almost half of those. Most raccoons are healthy and harmless but you should never touch or approach a wild raccoon, and you should definitely not feed them. If you see one acting strangely, call the local animal control officer. The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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