NEW YORK –
A virus outbreak that causes "zombie-like" behavior has killed at least 26 raccoons in Central Park since June, officials said.
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Two of the 26 carcasses tested positive for canine distemper, a virus that spreads to unvaccinated dogs and other animals, the New York Post reported. The unaccompanied raccoons are said to have also been infected because of the timing and proximity of their places of death, officials from the Municipal Health and Parks Post said on Saturday. None of the animals tested was positive for rabies.
"They looked as if they were circulating, wandering, having convulsions," Dr. Sally Slavinski, a deputy director of the Ministry of Health, to the post office. "Some of the raccoons had a kind of nasal discharge."
The first animal was discovered on June 24, while the last one was on Saturday.
Canine distemper attacks the nervous system. Infected raccoons may appear tame, confused and uncoordinated. The highly contagious virus can spread among the animals due to sneezing or coughing and the use of split food or water bowls.
The virus does not infect humans, but can be transmitted to unvaccinated dogs and puppies. It can also affect other animals in the park, including foxes, wolves, coyotes and skunks, as well as big cats like the snow leopard in the Central Park Zoo.