Camp Lejeune issues rabies threat for Marines after raccoons caught

CAMP LEJEUNE, NC - FEBRUARY 22: Pfc. Tiernie Gayle (C) of Wyandotte, Oklahoma trains with male and female Marines as she learns patrolling techniques at Marine Combat Training (MCT) on February 22, 2013 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Since 1988 all

Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina are under an unusual warning after a rabid raccoon was caught last week and a second one caught is currently being tested. 

"Installation personnel are advised to stay away from all wildlife animals," military brass posted on Facebook. 

Authorities said the raccoon was apprehended due to possible injuries and later tested for rabies. 

"Enjoy wildlife, but at a distance. Never try to approach, handle, feed or rescue wild animals. Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pets and seeking medical care after potential exposures before symptoms start," Chief Jason Taylor, MCB Camp Lejeune Conservation Law Enforcement Officer, said in a news release.

RELATED: US had 5 rabies deaths last year, highest total in a decade

No word if anyone on the base came in contact with the rabid raccoon. 

According to the Durham Herald-Sun, Marines at the facility are frequently in the wilderness for training which increases their risk of coming into contact with wildlife.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies is a fatal but preventable viral disease and spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. Treatment could include a series of inoculations.

Five Americans died of rabies last year — the largest number in a decade — and health officials said that some of the people didn't realize they had been infected or refused life-saving shots.

The CDC released a report on three of the deaths, all stemming from contact with bats. CDC officials said the deaths were tragic and could have been prevented.

One, an 80-year-old Illinois man, refused to take life-saving shots because of a longstanding fear of vaccines. An Idaho man and a Texas boy did not get shots because of a belief that no bat bite or scratch broke their skin.

In all three cases, people "either trivialized the exposure (to bats) or they didn't recognize the severity of rabies," said Ryan Wallace, a CDC rabies expert who co-authored the report.

Two other deaths occurred earlier in 2021. One was a Minnesota man bitten by a bat. He got the shots, but an undiagnosed immune system problem hampered their effectiveness, CDC officials said. The other victim was bitten by a rabid dog while traveling in the Philippines and died in New York after returning to the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.