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Woman brings raccoon into North Dakota bar, sparking rabies scare

Rabies "attacks the nervous system and causes swelling of the brain. There is no treatment and rabies is nearly always fatal," according to the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services.

1024px-Raccoon_(Procyon_lotor)_2.jpg
Representative photo of a raccoon.
Darkone via Wikimedia Commons
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MADDOCK, N.D. — North Dakota health officials issued a warning after someone brought a raccoon into the Maddock Bar, resulting in patrons possibly being exposed to rabies.

Bar manager Cindy Smith said she was working the night of Sept. 6 when a woman brought the raccoon into the bar in Maddock, a Benson County town in northeast North Dakota.

"A local girl came in, and she had been drinking," Smith said. Tucked under her arms was the raccoon in question.

Bar management immediately told the woman that she had to leave, and she proceeded to show a few bar patrons the raccoon before Smith was able to corral her out the door, Smith said.

The raccoon never touched the floor or another customer, according to Smith. She said the animal "definitely didn't bite anyone."

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Smith said she's heard the woman found the raccoon as a baby on the side of the road, nearly dead.

"Some locals actually don't believe it happened," Smith said of the raccoon's visit to the bar.

Police believe it did happened and, according to Smith, are trying to find the raccoon's owner. It is illegal in North Dakota to keep a raccoon or skunk as a pet, health officials said.

"We're on a big raccoon hunt in Maddock," Smith joked.

Health officials said anyone bitten by the raccoon or anyone who had contact with the raccoon’s saliva should speak with a health care provider as soon as possible regarding the risk of rabies.

“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,” said Amanda Bakken, a state epidemiologist.

Smith says the bar's staff and customers named the animal "Rocky the Raccoon," and says they all plan to dress up as raccoons this Halloween. She hopes that no more animals will enter their establishment.

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