Skunk tests positive for rabies near Windsor, Colo.
April 5, 2019
WELD COUNTY, Colorado — The first rabies case for 2019 was confirmed in a skunk found in a residential backyard north of Windsor. Laboratory testing confirmed the skunk was positive for rabies.
There was no known human or animal interactions with the skunk. "We are warning people to not touch or go near wild animals," said Mark E. Wallace, MD, MPH, executive director of the Weld County Health Department. "It's also vital to vaccinate pets such as dogs and cats, even horses. We continue to see more cases of rabies in residential areas."
Any mammal, including humans, is at risk for contracting rabies. "The risk of human exposure to rabies increases when pets and domestic animals are not properly vaccinated. Obviously, if you are in direct contact with a rabid animal, such as a raccoon or bat, your risk is extremely high," Wallace said. Rabies can infect any wild animal, including foxes, raccoons, coyotes and bats. Health officials stress that all domestic animals such as cats, dogs, horses and livestock should be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Unvaccinated horses and bison have contracted rabies in northern Colorado. Over the past several years, a variety of animal to human contacts has resulted in several dozen Weld County residents requiring the expensive rabies immune globulin for post-exposure treatment. There have been no human deaths related to rabies exposure in Weld County.
Signs of rabies include increases in saliva and drooling, nocturnal animals seen out during the daytime, and slow or difficult movement. Other signs may be aggressive behavior, such as a skunk attacking a dog. Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that affects the nervous system. Rabies causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and is nearly always fatal. It is transmitted in saliva through the bite of an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted in saliva to an open cut, scratch or wound. If a person suspects they have been exposed to rabies, they should contact their medical provider immediately. Effective vaccination treatment is available to prevent rabies if started before symptoms appear.
To prevent exposure to rabies
• Do not feed, touch or handle wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats.
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• Have dogs, cats, horses, and livestock vaccinated regularly by a licensed veterinarian.
• Spay or neuter pets to reduce the number of unwanted or stray animals in the neighborhood.
• Do not feed wild animals or keep pet food outside, which may attract wild animals.
For an interactive map of identified rabies in Weld County, visit: http://www.weldgov.com/departments/health_and_environment/environmental_health/animal_related_diseases/rabies_surveillance. ❖