Scores of raccoons have died thanks to a viral outbreak that causes zombie-like behaviour and can even spread to unvaccinated dogs .
Of the 26 raccoons found dead, two have tested positive for Canine Distemper virus – a disease that affects a wide variety of animals but is said to be a major disease of dogs.
The other 24 are thought to have died of the disease, according to reports.
The virus, which is potentially fatal to dogs, invades the nervous system and is linked to the measles virus in humans.
It causes high fevers, convulsions, muscle stiffness, eye inflammation, eye and nose discharge, vomiting, diarrhea and a loss of appetite.
It has a high mortality rate and is reportedly a leading cause of death in dogs who haven’t been inoculated against it.
The dead raccoon’s were found in Central Park, New York – sparking fears amongst local dog owners.
Park staff said they have spotted living raccoons with what they think are distemper symptoms, according to the New York Post.
Dr. Sally Slavinski, an assistant director at the city’s Health Department said: “They looked like they were circulating, wandering, having spasms.
“Some of the raccoons had some sort of nasal discharge.”
The disease can make animals act oddly. Those with distemper reportedly appear tame or confused, can lose their coordination and can also become aggressive.
Tests were carried out on the dead animals last Friday Samples sent to the Sate lab confirmed the disease.
New York officials said none of the critters had tested positive for rabies.
According to the Blue Cross Canine Distemper is less of a problem in the UK now that dogs are routinely given vaccinations.
But it is a risk to dogs who don’t have up-to-date shots or puppies that have been bred in poor environments.
It’s passed through direct contact with the saliva of an infected animal and there is no cure.
The virus poses no risk to humans.