Residents Beware: Distemper on the rise among local raccoon population

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, April 6, 2023

For the last two months, the city of Vicksburg’s animal control office has collected an average of five raccoons per week due to a statewide distemper outbreak that’s made its way north.

Vicksburg Animal Control Officer Kacie Lindsey said Thursday the outbreak originated on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and has slowly trickled upward through the state. Many callers have reported rabies in the raccoons; however, Lindsey said, distemper is different.

“They say it’s rabies when they call it in, but it’s not that,” she said. “Both rabies and distemper are neurological, and they can be spread to other animals. But they’re quite different.”

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Distemper is a virus that can be transmitted through bodily secretions, such as saliva, urine, blood and respiratory droplets. It can also be spread by contact with objects such as clothing, shoes, toys and equipment. Distemper can cause discharge from the eyes, sneezing, drooling and abnormal behavior.

Lindsey said pet owners need to ensure their animals are up-to-date on their vaccines to ensure their animals are protected from distemper. She also advised against overfeeding feral cat and dog populations, as leftover food and community water bowls can be a breeding ground for new distemper infections.

Thankfully, Lindsey said, she has not yet seen a case of a domestic animal coming down with distemper.

If residents see any wild animal that is acting unusually, they are asked to call animal control at 601-636-6982 to report the animal and have it removed.