Raccoons get rabies when they are bit by an animal afflicted with the disease. According to the Humane Society, animals with rabies are only capable of spreading the virus by biting another creature during the final stage of the disease. Saliva-borne rabies also enters the bloodstream through scratches, cuts and open wounds. Rabies does not enter the body through unbroken skin.
The Humane Society explains that raccoons, coyotes, skunks, bats and foxes contract rabies more than other mammals. According to Purdue University, 41 percent of wildlife rabies cases involve raccoons.
Vaccinations effectively prevent rabies transmission in dogs and cats. Nevertheless, the Humane Society recommends that all pets and people receive a prompt medical evaluation after being bitten or scratched by a wild animal. It also credits rabies education, awareness and vaccination programs with the low human annual mortality rate. In an average year, the United States has two rabies fatalities.
Raccoons with rabies behave differently than healthy ones. The normally nocturnal creatures become active during the day and appear disoriented and aggressive. The most noticeable symptom is foaming at the mouth.
Rabid raccoons are dangerous to people and other animals. The safest way to deal with a possibly rabid animal is to telephone the police or animal control authorities. These professionals have the knowledge and equipment necessary to euthanize the animal.