In a rare outbreak of rabies in the city, health officials confirmed yesterday at least two recent cases involving infected raccoons, and residents reported a third rabid raccoon in Northeast Baltimore.
Dr. Peter Beilenson, city health commissioner, said last night that one of the cases involved a man who raised a raccoon. No other details were immediately available. Reached at home, Jerome Ferguson, chief of the city's division for environmental health, would not comment.
Records from the Municipal Animal Shelter show that a rabid raccoon was found March 12 in a residential back yard in tTC Lauraville, behind Morgan State University in Northeast Baltimore.
The homeowner, Doug Pensinger, said his two dogs, Blue and Sobaka, found the raccoon. Wary of the animal, Pensinger crushed it to death with a cinder block. He then turned the raccoon over to the city health department, which confirmed that the animal was rabid. Pensinger's dogs are being quarantined.
Pensinger said animal shelter wardens told him that two other rabid raccoons were later found in the neighborhood.
"There are stray cats and stray dogs and people who own dogs and let them run loose," said his wife, Bettyann Heppler. "That's a potential way for all this to be spread."
A handful of rabies cases have been reported in the city this year, all involving raccoons, Beilenson said. No rabid dogs have been reported in the city for years, and a few cases involved cats last year.
The majority of rabid animals, including skunks and foxes, are found in rural areas.
Maryland confirmed 613 rabies cases last year, said Dr. Clifford I. Johnson, the state public health veterinarian. Two years earlier, 442 cases were confirmed.
Rabies came to Maryland via Florida and Georgia in the mid-1970s, health officials said, when hunters from Virginia and Maryland unwittingly brought rabid raccoons back home to hunt.
The problem has spread to Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and is moving west to Ohio.
"The recommendation is for any wild animal, common sense dictates do not approach it, do not pet it, do not feed it, don't take it home," Beilenson said.
Left untreated, rabies is fatal.
Pub Date: 4/04/98