Rabies continues to be a health concern in Carroll County, where there have been 12 reported cases this year, county health officials said.
"We still have an ongoing rabies problem," said Charles Zeleski, the county Health Department's assistant director of environmental health. "We can become complacent if we don't keep in mind the disease is still out there."
Mr. Zeleski said 11 of the rabid animals were raccoons and the 12th was a fox.
Wild animals are submitted for rabies testing only when they've had some contact with humans or domestic animals, such as dogs, cats, horses or cows.
"There are probably many more animals out there, but because we haven't come in contact with them they just die on their own," Mr. Zeleski said.
He said none of the rabid animals had bitten a human, although there was contact with humans in some cases.
Contact may have been nothing more than a rabid animal's saliva, obtained while breaking up a fight between a raccoon and a dog, he said.
"We test then also, but the likelihood of becoming affected without being bitten is very slim," he said.
There were 16 confirmed cases of rabies -- in which the animal was captured and tested -- in Carroll in 1992, county officials said.
Nine of those cases involved raccoons.
County officials said the number of rabies cases fluctuates from year to year. The number of confirmed rabies cases in Carroll peaked in 1984, when the county recorded 148 cases, 134 of which were raccoons, Mr. Zeleski said.
He said the number of cases increases when animal populations are on the rise.
Residents are more likely to have contact with animals in the spring and fall.
County officials said people should use common sense when they come into contact with raccoons and other wild animals.
If an animal seems disoriented, very passive or very aggressive, stay away from it.
If an animal poses an immediate threat, such as to children on a playground, residents are urged to call the police or the Carroll County Humane Society.
As the disease develops, animals take on very unusual characteristics, health officials said. For instance, raccoons, which are normally nocturnal, are more likely to be seen during daylight when rabid.
County officials strongly recommend keeping family pets vaccinated.
They also urge those who handle or come into contact with wild animals, such as hunters, veterinarians, police officers and animal control workers, to receive pre-exposure vaccines.