Rabid raccoon bites woman trying to help dogs

LAKE WALES, Fla. - Polk County authorities confirm a rabid raccoon bit a Lake Wales woman. The attack occurred March 7, but authorities received the rabies test results this week.

When the attack occurred, Polk resident Stella Haige heard bone-chilling screams from across the street. She ran out of her house about 10 p.m. in her pajamas because she thought someone needed help.

The screams were actually from a raccoon fighting with two of the neighbors' dogs. Without thinking, Haige jumped into the fight to break it up. "I knew that raccoon bit me during the struggle because I was trying to grab the dogs," she said. "It didn’t hurt, and I wasn’t concerned."

Her attitude changed when she received a call from the Polk County Health Department this week saying the raccoon tested positive for rabies. Two scabs on her right shin are all that's left of the bite now. Haige started her first round of shots, which will be finished in the next week and a half.

The two neighbors dogs have been quarantined because their vaccinations were not up to date. Polk County Animal Control Investigator Mary Kirkland said this serves as a warning to be careful around stray animals. "Rabies is in our neighborhood. We live with it everyday. It’s nothing new. It only comes to light when a situation like this happens," she said.

Last month in Pasco County three raccoons attacked an 18-year-old in her front yard. Animal Control Officers there trapped a raccoon that tested positive for rabies.

The thought of rabies never entered Haige's mind because the screams she heard from the raccoon.

"My thought was 'Oh My God a kid is involved,'" she said.

Kirkland advised avoiding contact with wild animals.

She added you can break up a fight with a water hose or another tool from a long distance. Kirkland stressed to remember to keep your animals vaccinations up to date.

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