Tourists have been warned to be on their guard against raccoons in New York’s Central Park after two animals were discovered to have rabies.

Visitors to the popular tourist attraction have been told to avoid contact with wild animals, including stray cats and dogs and to be wary of unusually friendly animals.

New York Health Department spokesman Dr Sally Slavinski said: “Protect yourself, avoid interaction with them,”

“If an animal looks sick or has trouble walking, then you should tell a park employee or call 311.”
Central Park is one of New York’s top tourist attractions with approximately 25 million people visiting the park, which is set in the heart of Manhattan, each year.

The last human outbreak of rabies in New York was in 1953, since then the city has introduced a mandatory rabies vaccination for dogs to combat the disease.

Although raccoon-borne rabies only arrived in the city in 1992, it now accounts for most cases in the city.

So far this year there have been 20 confirmed cases of animal rabies in New York, four of those in Manhattan.

Although authorities are unaware of how the raccoon found its way into the park to infect other animals it is possible that the animal was dropped off by an unsuspecting resident.

Animals infected with rabies can take several weeks to show any signs of the disease, and the resident may have been unaware that the raccoon was infected.

Rabies is a viral disease spread by bites and scratches. It can be fatal if it is not treated promptly.