The distemper virus can make raccoons act like zombies and can be deadly to dogs. Chicago-area officials have repeatedly warned locals that cases have been spotted in the region.
In December, Cook County Animal and Rabies Control warned residents of an increase in raccoons carrying the virus and displaying "abnormal neurologic signs." Pet owners should vaccinate their dogs against the disease, the warning says.
After reports of distemper in Ohio raccoons made headlines last year, local authorities addressed the common description of the diseased animals:
"'Zombie raccoons' have been making the news lately, and residents are asking what that means. Sadly, the nickname refers to raccoons that may appear zombie-like due to a viral disease called distemper," a post from the city of Dublin, Ohio, reads.
The city said symptoms of distemper in raccoons include:
- Walking around dazed and confused, and/or approaching people or pets
- Staggering or falling down when walking
- Showing their teeth
- Having "glowing” eyes
The eyes of diseased raccoons can appear to glow and have an "eery greenish" tint because of abnormal mineral deposits associated with the disease, the city says.
While humans cannot catch distemper, they can accidentally transfer it to their dogs, a fact sheet from a Canadian Humane Society says. The disease is highly contagious and can spread through a variety of methods, including inhalation and contact with raccoon feces.
The disease is separate from chronic wasting disease – unofficially dubbed "zombie" deer disease – which drew headlines in its spread to dozens of states this year.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Zombie raccoon' sightings: They stagger, show their teeth and may have glowing eyes