Belleville police issue safety advisory for ‘diseased raccoons’

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Belleville police have issued a safety advisory regarding the recent spotting of several raccoons showing signs of distemper.

The post notified residents six sick raccoons had been euthanized since September. A woman living near the intersection of N. 13th and West E. streets described the look of a raccoon standing on the sidewalk in front of her house.

“It was literally staggering around like it was drunk,” she said. “It was just disorientated and acted drunk, and it wasn’t running away from people.”

Distemper is a virus that is fatal for raccoons and can be spread to dogs. St. Louis veterinarian Jay King says the best defense a dog can have against distemper is to make sure its vaccinations are up to date.

“That’s the only way you can protect a dog unless you’re in the house or completely never go to a place where a raccoon might be,” he said.

King advises pet owners to bring their food and water bowls in at night so saliva from a sick raccoon doesn’t spread distemper to the next dog eating or drinking from that bowl.

Distemper cannot spread to humans. However, King points out a raccoon bite can spread rabies or other bacterial infections. Raccoons infected with distemper can appear to be friendly but will still bite.

“We’ve had people call in and say well there’s a little racoon sitting on their front porch and kids are trying to feed it cookies and, you know, racoons are probably not going to actively come up and bite a person because they’re so sick, but if you start messing with them, you could get bit,” King said.

Other area health departments have not reported any cases of distemper. Last year, we reported on an outbreak in south St. Louis and St. Ann.