Woman Brings Raccoon Into North Dakota Bar, Officials Issue Rabies Alert

by Taylor Cunningham

A woman has prompted the Heath Department to issue a rabies alert after she brought a wild raccoon into a North Dakota bar.

No, this isn’t a lead into a punchline. According to The Bismarck Tribune, an unnamed patron carried the animal into a Maddox bar’s happy hour around 4:30 pm on Sept 6. Bartender Cindy Smith said she told the woman, who is a local, to leave immediately. But she didn’t listen.

“I saw she was carrying something, and I asked her what it was, and she showed me, and I said, ‘You’ve got to get it out of here,'” she said.

Instead, the woman walked through the bar showing off the raccoon before finally taking it outside a few minutes later.

“We finally got her out with it, and that’s all that happened,” Smith continued. “It never left her arms one time, and there was absolutely no biting.”

“I don’t know what she was thinking,” Smith added.

Despite the seemingly incident-free encounters, the local health department is concerned. Just this year, six rabid animals have been reported in North Dakota— including two bats, two cats, one bovine, and one skunk. So there is a chance that the raccoon was infected. And if it was, it could transmit the deadly disease without biting.

Because rabies is such a serious disease with a nearly 100% fatality rate, we are making this information available to the public as a precautionary measure,” epidemiologist Amanda Bakken said in a statement.

Rabies Could Be Passed Through the Raccoon’s Saliva

Officials are asking anyone who may have had contact with the raccoon’s saliva to immediately see a doctor. A physician can give an exposed person a round of shots that may prevent the disease from infecting the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. But if rabies is established, there is virtually nothing that can be done.

Early symptoms are similar to those of the flu. As the disease progresses, it can cause aggression, hallucinations, and paralysis before victims eventually fall into a coma.

Luckily, contracting the disease is incredibly rare for humans. In fact, only one person has been diagnosed with rabies since 1978. A man in Boise Idaho died months after he had contact with a bat. Initially, he didn’t realize the animal had scratched him. But two months later, he came down with symptoms. And at that point, it was too late.

Following his passing, Idaho State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn gave a warning similar to the North Dakota Health Department.

“It is critical that people exposed to a bat receive appropriate treatment to prevent the onset of rabies as soon as possible,” she said.