KUSA – Twenty one people were exposed to a baby raccoon that tested positive for rabies after a woman said the animal’s mother abandoned it on her property and she took it into her home, according to a news release from the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment.

The raccoon tested positive for rabies on Friday – and this is the largest rabies exposure case in Weld County’s history, according to the news release. All the people who were exposed to the disease have been receiving rabies treatment.

"There was a lot of interest in the baby raccoon, and several individuals came over to the house," said Rachel Freeman, the health communications supervisor for the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment.

Freeman said health officials recommended testing the baby raccoon for rabies.

"The baby raccoon was euthanized," Freeman said," and that's how testing occurs."

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system that causes the brain and spinal cord to swell. The disease is fatal to both humans and animals and is spread in saliva.

Here are tips for avoiding rabies exposure from the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment:

  • Leave orphaned animals alone. Baby animals often appear to be orphaned when they are not. The parent animal may not return if people are too close.
  • Do not feed, touch or handle wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats
  • Have dogs, cats, horses, and livestock vaccinated regularly by a licensed veterinarian
  • If you do find a wild animal that appears to be sick, injured or orphaned, contact your local Animal Control Officer, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, or a local veterinary office before attempting to move it.