The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park urges visitors to use caution and good judgment when encountering an animal on the towpath, as warm weather causes rabies incidents to increase throughout the mid-east region. Each year several rabies incidents are reported throughout the 184.5 mile park, most recently near the Lock 10 area of the canal. However, an animal infected with rabies could be anywhere, rural and urban landscapes, and visitors are encouraged to know how to respond for their safety and well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority of rabies cases reported each year that occur in the U.S. are from wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Sometimes rabies can be transmitted through non-bite methods including contamination of an open wound, abrasion, fluids entering mucous membranes or scratch with saliva from an infected animal.
Visitors may detect the following signs as indication an animal may be infected; however, the symptoms may be subtle and may not always be present. They include: aggressiveness, excessive saliva or foaming at the mouth, trembling or restlessness, loss of balance or disorientation, lack of fear for humans, unusual daytime activity for animals that are usually nocturnal. Visitors are encouraged to stay away from sick looking animals and leave an area upon encountering an animal that displays unusual activity. If an animal becomes aggressive and approaches you, use hiking sticks, bicycles or other objects to keep the animal at a distance.
If you encounter a potentially rabies infected animal do not approach it and immediately leave the area and report the animal's location by calling the park's emergency hotline at 1-866-677-6677.