Reports of a growing incidence of rabies in the raccoon population of western Maryland have created concern among officials that the disease could spread to Montgomery County.

Although no rabid raccoons or domestic animals have yet been found in Montgomery County, Dr. Eugene Rosenberger of the County Health Department and Dave Wheeler of the Department of Anmal Control and Humane Treatment warn that the disease could spread to local animals.

Residents are advised to take precautions since raccoons live in close proximity to people and domestic animals in the county. Animal bites should be reported immediately to the Department of Animal Control at 279-1823, where arrangements will be made to confine dogs and cats for a 10-day observation period and to examine wild or stray animals for rabies.

Wounds should be washed thoroughly with soap and water and a physician should be consulted to determine whether a rabies vaccine is necessary.

Health officials urge residents to avoid all wild animals, vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies, keep domestic animals under control or on a leash, and call the Department of Animal Control to pick up stray dogs and cats.

Raccoons should not be treated as pets, health officials say, and food such as dog food, table scraps and large bird seeds should not be left outside for them. Metal garbage cans which fasten down with a chain or snap hooks, or plastic cans with snap covers also should be used to discourage raccoons from feeding. Amonia poured into the garbage inside plastic bags is another deterrent.

For more information about animal control measures, animal bites or trapping raccoons, call the Department of Animal Control at 279-1823. Animal bites occurring after 8 p.m. on weekdays and 4:30 p.m. on weekends should be reported to the Montgomery County Police Department at 911.