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Central Park’s raccoon population is being killed off by a zombie virus

Will Gleason
Written by
Will Gleason

With a cloudy week in the forecast, more depressing updates about the subway and the constant, anxiety-inducing drip of news from Washington, it’s always nice to take some time to read an inspiring, feel-good story about life inside the five boroughs. So... hopefully you’ll be able to find one of those today. Anyway, it’s looking like Central Park is full of zombie raccoons.  

More than two dozen raccoons in the park have died as a result of a viral outbreak of canine distemper virus since June 24 that causes zombie-like behavior in the animals. Before dying, the infected critters display bizarre behavior such as sudden spasms, loss of coordination and random bouts of aggression. The virus, however, should not be confused with rabies which none of the raccoons have tested positive for so far (unlike in 2010).

“They looked like they were circulating, wandering, having spasms,” Dr. Sally Slavinski, an assistant director at the Health Department, told the New York Post. “Some of the raccoons had some sort of nasal discharge.”

The Parks Department is stressing that humans can’t contract the disease, but the virus is capable of spreading to dogs through infected saliva, urine and feces. According to PetMD, the major symptoms in dogs include “high fever, reddened eyes and a watery discharge from the nose and eyes.” While most dogs are vaccinated for the distemper virus, the vaccine is only required if the pet is going to a grooming or boarding facility.  

The most recent raccoon corpse was found Saturday morning at East 106th Street and East Drive, and the virus could also possibly spread to skunks, coyotes, ferrets or foxes in the park.

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