Raccoons act as reservoirs for several pathogenic agents, and in an urban environment, may represent a risk for spillover into human, domestic animal, and captive (zoo) animal populations. Over a 5-year period, raccoons captured at the St. Louis Zoo were sampled, and a disease exposure survey was done. Titers were found for each of the 5 Leptospira serovars tested (icterohaemorrhagiae, grippotyphosa, canicola, pomona, and hardjo); some animals had titers to multiple serovars. Over 54% had also been exposed to canine distemper virus and almost 7% to canine adenovirus 1. Almost 50% of the raccoons had titers to feline parvovirus, and one year the prevalence was as high as 89%.

COMMENTARY: Wildlife, including raccoons, is important to the ecosystem and is fun to enjoy from a distance. However, contact should be discouraged. Pet owners should be reminded of the importance of keeping vaccines up to date in areas where raccoons are found. These 5 diseases are not the only ones we should be concerned about-raccoons are also implicated as reservoirs of rabies virus, and they harbor Baylisascaris as well.

A serologic assessment of exposure to viral pathogens and Leptospira in an urban raccoon (

Procyon lotor

) population inhabiting a large zoological park. Junge RE, Bauman K, King M, Gompper ME. J Zoo Wildlife Med 38:18-26, 2007.