Health officials are warning residents in a Brooklyn neighborhood that a raccoon found there recently tested positive for rabies and it may have infected feral cats and kittens before it died.
The city Health Department says the raccoon was found on the 7800 block of 16th Avenue in Bensonhurst.
Neighbors are being urged to protect themselves and their pets if they encounter wild animals like raccoons, bats and stray cats, particularly if they look sick or act strangely.
Resident Rachel Agostino said raccoon sightings have gotten more frequent in the area: a neighbor recently posted video to Facebook showing a family of the animals in her backyard on a recent night. She's now worried about walking her dog at night and vows to be more vigilant.
"I'll start looking, just in case, just to keep her safe," she said.
New York City Council member Mark Treyger has been helping to spread the word about the rabies case.
"We just want to make sure families are staying vigilant," he said.
"If there's a raccoon around, we don't know what they're carrying right now. Protect your children, protect your pets," he added.
Humans bitten by an animal should wash the wound right away and talk to a doctor, then call 311 to report the encounter.
Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. It rarely infects humans, and there has been no human case in New York City for more than 50 years, according to the Health Department.
Last year, there were 56 confirmed cases of rabid animals in the city.
Dogs should be kept on a leash and cats should be kept indoors, officials say. Pet owners should check to see if the animals become withdrawn, aggressive or start drooling excessively, or in the later stages of the disease, begin foaming at the mouth.
Experts say symptoms may not show up for a few weeks after infection.