Raccoons can be found throughout the state and in all habitat types, with the majority being found in northwestern and central Ohio along rivers and streams bordering farmland habitats. They have also moved into suburban and urban areas and can live almost any place where there is food for them to eat and a den to serve as shelter. Many of them live, temporarily at least, in drain tiles and sewer systems.
Raccoons defecate in communal sites called latrines. They are nocturnal and are up and about during the dark hours of the night. Even though raccoons do not really hibernate, they can sleep for days, and even weeks at a time, during the cold winter months.
What raccoon-related diseases are of concern in Ohio?
Animal bites: raccoons
More than 100 raccoon bites to humans are reported in Ohio each year. Raccoons are the animal reservoir for raccoon rabies variant. Raccoon rabies variant is present in Ohio, particularly in the northeastern part of the state. People or their pets can become exposed to rabies when they are bitten by a raccoon.
If you have been bitten by a raccoon, consult with your healthcare provider regarding the need for antimicrobial treatment and report the bite to your local health department.
Baylisascaris procyonis (raccoon roundworm)
Baylisascaris procyonis is the intestinal roundworm of raccoons. The eggs are shed in the feces.
People become infected by consuming the eggs from the environment. Once a person has consumed the eggs, the eggs hatch into larvae, and the larvae will migrate throughout the individual’s body. Signs and the severity of symptoms depend on the number of eggs ingested and what part of the body the larvae migrate to.
If you suspect you may have been exposed to raccoon feces, consult your healthcare provider.
Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira interrogans bacteria. It can infect people and a wide range of domestic and wild animals, including raccoons.
Leptospira is shed in the urine of infected animals. Transmission usually occurs through exposure to water or soil that has been contaminated with Leptospira bacteria, although transmission can also occur through direct contact with urine from an animal shedding the bacteria.
Rabies virus can infect any species of mammal. It causes encephalitis and is almost always fatal once symptoms develop. It is spread when a person or animal is bitten by an infected animal or, less commonly, when saliva from an infected animal gets into an open wound or onto a mucous membrane.
Raccoons are the animal reservoir for raccoon rabies variant. Raccoon rabies variant is present in Ohio, particularly in the northeastern part of the state. People or their pets can become exposed to rabies when they are bitten by a raccoon. All bites should be reported to the local health department and the raccoon tested for rabies if it is available.
Protect your pets by having them vaccinated for rabies. Do not attract raccoons by feeding them or allowing them access to pet food, garbage cans or other potential food sources. It is illegal in Ohio to move live raccoons from one location to another.