Mar 18, 2010 7:05 PM by Elaine Sheridan
Tri-County Health Department in Douglas County has confirmed that a skunk in Parker was infected with rabies.It is the first time in 20 years that skunk rabies has been confirmed in Douglas County. Multiple cases of skunk rabies were confirmed in El Paso County last year, including cases in horses and a cow.
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.
"The location of this rabid skunk in eastern Douglas County confirms that rabies in the wild animal population poses a risk to horse ranches in the area, and that it is getting closer to more densely populated areas of the metro Denver area," states Richard L. Vogt, MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. "It 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."
In addition to rabies vaccinations for domestic animals, 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.
Skunks are starting to be out more now that the weather is warming up.