US woman and 20 friends treated for rabies after saving baby raccoon

A baby raccoon.
A baby raccoon. Photo credit: Getty

Twenty-one people have been forced to get treated for rabies after a wildlife rescue in the US went awry.

The drama began when a Weld County woman found the baby racoon apparently abandoned by its mother and took it into her home, the Greely Tribune reports.

While it was there 20 people asked to come over and visit it, unknowingly exposing themselves to the deadly rabies virus.

Eventually the woman contacted an animal shelter asking if they could take in the racoon. The shelter couldn't accept it and notified the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment of its presence in the woman's home.

The health department asked if they could test it for rabies and it tested positive, leading to anyone who visited the raccoon now needing treatment.

"This was a baby wild animal, so I think there was some heightened interest to seeing a baby animal in the home," said Rachel Freeman, the public health department's communication supervisor.

Weld County is currently experiencing a rise in the number of rabies cases.

In a statement the health department warned residents to avoid taking in any animals and to keep up to date on vaccinations.

"We're not just seeing typical skunk or bat rabies this year," said health department executive director Mark Wallace.

"We're concerned about the growing number of cases among other animals such as raccoons and cats."

Any sick wild animals should be referred to the authorities before any attempts to move or touch them, the department said.

Those exposed to the raccoon are now recovering - a lucky miss as rabies becomes harder to treat once symptoms present themselves.

Newshub.