Raccoons with rabies in Manhattan park prompt health warning

New York City officials are urging New Yorkers to vaccinate their pets against rabies because half a dozen raccoons with rabies have turned up in the city this year.

Four of the rabid raccoons were found in Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan. Raccoons with rabies have not been found in Manhattan in eight years, health officials said.

"Rabies is a serious illness that poses a danger for you and your pets," Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city's health commissioner, said in a news release. "Keep a close eye on your pets when you take them outside and if you see a wild animal—such as a raccoon—maintain a safe distance and do not approach it."

The virus that causes rabies is usually transmitted through an animal bite. If untreated, rabies causes brain disease and ultimately death, according to the CDC.

To reduce the risk of your exposure to a rabid animal, do not touch or feed wild animals, stray dogs or cats, according to the city's Health Department. You should also keep garbage in tightly sealed containers and never separate animals that are fighting.

You should also report a sick or aggressive animal by calling 311.

This year, rabid raccoons were also found in the Bronx and on Staten Island.