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El Paso County dog tests positive for rabies virus

Posted at 10:51 AM, Mar 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-22 00:19:52-04

EL PASO COUNTY – El Paso County Public health reports a dog in the county has tested positive for the rabies virus, they say it’s the first case in a pet dog since 1974.

The dog tested positive on March 15th, following an outbreak of the deadly virus in recent years with cases being found in skunks and a fox.

The health department says the dog was involved in some kind of incident and that it wasn’t behaving normally. The owners turned the dog over to the county, it tested positive for rabies, and had to be put down.

On Thursday, News 5 spoke with dog owners in the county to find out their reaction to this situation.

“I think it’s scary for those dog owners. I can’t imagine that happening to my dog,” said Kristene Vaughn. She has a bichon frise named Ollie.

“It’s hard to imagine eventually letting go of him.”

Dr. Marlin Geist of Westside Animal Hospital said, “There’s two versions of rabies…the furious form. Most people think of the animals that salivate and get angry and aggressive…then there’s the dumb form which is more common where they look drunk, they lose their coordination.”

Health leaders say in this latest rabies case, the dog was believed to have been vaccinated, but it’s unclear who administered that vaccine.

All domestic animals in El Paso County are required by law to be vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian, the reason is to ensure that the vaccine is given properly.

Dr. Robin Johnson, medical director for El Paso County Public Health, said, “You don’t have to worry that it may be set out on a table for a few hours and has changed the components that are within that vaccine.”

The rabies virus is almost always deadly in both animals and people. It affects the brain and central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage.

Rabies is spread primarily through the bite of rabid animals, but can also be transmitted anytime an infected animal’s saliva enters an open wound, eyes, nose or mouth.

Correction: El Paso County Public Health has provided updated information reflecting it’s unknown who vaccinated the infected dog, they originally reported the owners had vaccinated their own dog.