Shelli Mader
Hays, Kan.

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May 3, 2010
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Be aware of rabies in Colorado

Like many dog owners, Tasha and Bobby Chevarria of rural Agate, Colo., put their four dogs in a pen during the day when they are at work and let them out at night when they get home.

But on the evening of April 1, when Tasha went to the pen to get her dogs out, she was shocked at what she found in their kennel.

"There was a dead skunk in the pen with them," Tasha said. "It had gotten in there with the dogs in broad daylight."

Tasha knew something had to be wrong with the skunk, so she put it in a cooler until she could get it to the Colorado Division of Wildlife for testing. The test results came back quickly. The Chevarrias weren't surprised to hear that the skunk had rabies.

"Even though our dogs were current on their rabies vaccinations, they had to get a booster shot right away and are required to serve 45 days of home observation since they were exposed to a rabid animal," Tasha said. "We aren't supposed to let them off the place or out by themselves during their house arrest."

If the Chevarria's wouldn't have been able to prove that their dogs had been vaccinated, the animals would have been put down immediately or required to be quarantined for six months, with the first 90 days of the quarantine served at a pound or other facility that could handle a potentially rabid animal.

"Pets need to be vaccinated. There is no cure for rabies once an animal begins to have symptoms," veterinarian Reed Hanks from the Strasburg Vet Clinic said. "If a pet is exposed to rabies and there is no proof of vaccination, the animal is usually put down. You can buy rabies vaccination at some feed stores and other places and give it yourself, but unless it is administered and recorded by a vet clinic, the animal is considered not vaccinated."

Animals with rabies usually show one of two sets of symptoms called either "furious" rabies or "dumb" rabies. Symptoms usually develop between 20 and 60 days after an animal is exposed to the disease. Rabid animals may become aggressive, vicious and highly sensitive to touch and other kinds of stimulation. They may also be lethargic, weak in one or more limbs, and unable to raise their heads or make sounds.

Rabies is a disease eastern Coloradans haven't had to deal with much in nearly 30 years.

"There really haven't been any rabies cases close to Denver for a long time," Reed said. "It started up again when a rabid skunk was found south of Byers in the summer of 2008. Since then we have been seeing more cases turn up. Skunks are awesome for spreading the disease."

Bub Keen, a rancher from Byers, Colo., has learned a lot about rabies this month after two of his family's horses died from the disease.

"Anyone who was exposed to the horses in the two weeks before they died has to get a series of shots as a precaution," Keen said.

Keen and his family were required to get a dose of human rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine during the 14-day period following the first shot.

"The shots weren't painful," Keen said. "They were just like any other shot."

Rabies is usually transmitted by bites from a rabid animal, but can also be passed through the saliva of an infected animal. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, if a human contracts the disease it is nearly always fatal. But it is 100 percent preventable in humans if they receive treatment soon after exposure to a potentially rabid animal. More than 55,000 people worldwide die of rabies each year, but in the United States the disease in humans is rare. Rabies virus spreads most commonly through bats, skunks, raccoons, coyotes and foxes.

"We are now recommending that people get their horses vaccinated against rabies," Reed said.

Though costs vary by location, rabies vaccinations for horses and pets usually cost about $20 each.

Like many dog owners, Tasha and Bobby Chevarria of rural Agate, Colo., put their four dogs in a pen during the day when they are at work and let them out at night when they get home.

But on the evening of April 1, when Tasha went to the pen to get her dogs out, she was shocked at what she found in their kennel.

"There was a dead skunk in the pen with them," Tasha said. "It had gotten in there with the dogs in broad daylight."

Tasha knew something had to be wrong with the skunk, so she put it in a cooler until she could get it to the Colorado Division of Wildlife for testing. The test results came back quickly. The Chevarrias weren't surprised to hear that the skunk had rabies.

"Even though our dogs were current on their rabies vaccinations, they had to get a booster shot right away and are required to serve 45 days of home observation since they were exposed to a rabid animal," Tasha said. "We aren't supposed to let them off the place or out by themselves during their house arrest."

If the Chevarria's wouldn't have been able to prove that their dogs had been vaccinated, the animals would have been put down immediately or required to be quarantined for six months, with the first 90 days of the quarantine served at a pound or other facility that could handle a potentially rabid animal.

"Pets need to be vaccinated. There is no cure for rabies once an animal begins to have symptoms," veterinarian Reed Hanks from the Strasburg Vet Clinic said. "If a pet is exposed to rabies and there is no proof of vaccination, the animal is usually put down. You can buy rabies vaccination at some feed stores and other places and give it yourself, but unless it is administered and recorded by a vet clinic, the animal is considered not vaccinated."

Animals with rabies usually show one of two sets of symptoms called either "furious" rabies or "dumb" rabies. Symptoms usually develop between 20 and 60 days after an animal is exposed to the disease. Rabid animals may become aggressive, vicious and highly sensitive to touch and other kinds of stimulation. They may also be lethargic, weak in one or more limbs, and unable to raise their heads or make sounds.

Rabies is a disease eastern Coloradans haven't had to deal with much in nearly 30 years.

"There really haven't been any rabies cases close to Denver for a long time," Reed said. "It started up again when a rabid skunk was found south of Byers in the summer of 2008. Since then we have been seeing more cases turn up. Skunks are awesome for spreading the disease."

Bub Keen, a rancher from Byers, Colo., has learned a lot about rabies this month after two of his family's horses died from the disease.

"Anyone who was exposed to the horses in the two weeks before they died has to get a series of shots as a precaution," Keen said.

Keen and his family were required to get a dose of human rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine during the 14-day period following the first shot.

"The shots weren't painful," Keen said. "They were just like any other shot."

Rabies is usually transmitted by bites from a rabid animal, but can also be passed through the saliva of an infected animal. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, if a human contracts the disease it is nearly always fatal. But it is 100 percent preventable in humans if they receive treatment soon after exposure to a potentially rabid animal. More than 55,000 people worldwide die of rabies each year, but in the United States the disease in humans is rare. Rabies virus spreads most commonly through bats, skunks, raccoons, coyotes and foxes.

"We are now recommending that people get their horses vaccinated against rabies," Reed said.

Though costs vary by location, rabies vaccinations for horses and pets usually cost about $20 each.


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The Fence Post Updated Aug 14, 2012 04:46PM Published May 3, 2010 01:25PM Copyright 2010 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.