Monday, May 10, 2010

Rabies Confirmed in Adams County Skunk

Health department advises to get pets vaccinated and warns against exposure to wild animals

Tri-County Health Department has confirmed that a skunk collected on a private property south of Fort Morgan on May 5 was infected with rabies. The skunk was seen during the day and behaving abnormally, prompting the resident to shoot it. Healthy skunks are normally nocturnal and are rarely seen in the daylight hours. There was no known animal or human exposure to this skunk, and all of the rancher’s dogs, cats and horses have been vaccinated.

“This rabid skunk in eastern Adams County, along with additional cases in Arapahoe, Douglas and Elbert Counties over the last two months, confirms that rabies in the wild animal population is endemic in rural areas east of I-25, and that it is moving closer to more densely populated areas of metro Denver,” states Richard L. Vogt, MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. “Now, all three of the counties in our jurisdiction have skunk rabies.”

On March 15, Tri-County Health Department confirmed that a skunk near Parker in Douglas County was infected with skunk variant rabies. This means that rabies is spreading among the skunk population, and not just through an isolated exposure to a bat.

On April 9, a horse that died near Deer Trail in eastern Arapahoe County was confirmed to have rabies. There was a history of skunk activity on the premises, and eight people who were possibly exposed to rabies have completed a series of rabies post-exposure vaccinations.

Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals, and is nearly always fatal. The virus is shed in the saliva of infected animals, and people or animals can get rabies from the bite or contact with saliva of a rabid animal. Immediate treatment is required after exposure to an infected animal’s saliva.

To prevent exposure to this virus, skunks and other wildlife should not be handled or fed. A healthy animal usually will remain well hidden and avoid human contact. If you see any wild animals exhibiting odd or aggressive behavior, contact your local animal control agency.

“This new Adams County rabies case is a good opportunity to remind people that having dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies is the simplest and most effective way to protect pets and humans from this deadly disease. Owners of horses, cattle and other livestock are encouraged to consult with their veterinarians regarding rabies vaccination for those animals,” Vogt adds.

In addition to rabies vaccinations for pets and livestock, there are additional precautions to prevent possible exposure to rabies:

• Do not feed wild animals since this reduces their natural fear of humans.

• Do not leave pet food outside or feed more than your outdoor pet will finish in one feeding.

• Do not leave livestock feed containers open in sheds or barns.

• Remove junk piles from around your property that may provide nesting areas for wild animals.

• Teach children to stay away from all wild animals, stray domestic pets, or any dead animals they may find.

• Do not let pets roam freely, since this can increase the chance that they could be exposed without your knowledge.

• Contact your veterinarian if your dog or cat is bitten or scratched by a wild animal.

• Call your local animal control agency if you see a potentially rabid animal, so that they can capture the animal or collect the body.

• If a person has been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, they should seek immediate medical attention, since prompt medical treatment is the key to preventing rabies after a possible exposure.

People should contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife if they see an animal that could have rabies but has had no contact with humans or domestic animals, or call their local animal control agency if there has been suspected contact with a human or domestic animal. Experts are on-call 24 hours a day.
More information about rabies is available on the Tri-County website at

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