Pet owners, be warned.
Three raccoons found earlier this week on the South and Northwest sides are suspected of having distemper, a highly contagious disease that can affect several species, including house pets.
Wildlife officers at the city’s Department of Animal Care & Control found the raccoons earlier this week, according to Chicago Police Officer Porter, who is assigned to the department. Two of the animals were found in the South Side Beverly neighborhood, while the third was found near the intersection of Addison and Cumberland on the Northwest Side.
Dr. Michael Podell with the Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center said animals don't have to have physical contact to get the virus. It can be picked up by sniffing or through contact with secretions that an infected animal left behind.
"It's very informative and scary to know that you can get it just by sniffing," said dog owner Tim McCarthy.
Humans cannot contract the distemper virus, but in animals it attacks the nervous system and symptoms include trembling, seizures, twitching, partial or complete paralysis, and eye and nasal discharge, according to a release from the department.
The public is encouraged to call 311 to report sightings of wild animals that appear infected and to take pets to a veterinarian if they exhibit symptoms.
In 2004, the Chicago area experienced an outbreak of distemper that affected more than 120 dogs and may have been transmitted through infected wildlife, the release said.
Animal Care & Control is offering low-cost vaccine clinics, at 2741 S. Western Ave. on Dec. 28 from 9 a.m. until noon, and on Dec. 29 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The cost is $7 and no appointment is necessary.
Additional clinics will be available Jan. 15, Feb. 5, Feb. 26, March 19, April 9 and 30 -- all from 9 a.m. to noon.
Rabies vaccinations will also be available for $15.