by Pam Zubeck
Six skunks infected with rabies have been reported here this year, El Paso County Public Health reports today in a press release.
“Based on the locations of where these rabid skunks are being found, we know rabies is being detected in both rural and urban parts of the county. We strongly encourage the public in all the cities and towns within El Paso County to stay alert and take precautions to prevent rabies. These rabid skunks have been aggressive and have injured dogs and livestock,” said Kandi Buckland, R. N., M.P.A., executive director of El Paso County Public Health. “Unvaccinated pets or livestock are likely to get infected with rabies from these exposures, and that means the owner or family members are at risk. Rabies is a fatal disease, so we want to be sure that our community is hearing the message about how important it is to keep pets and livestock rabies vaccination up to date through a licensed veterinarian,” Buckland adds.
She recommends residents help prevent rabies by:
• Ensuring that dogs and cats are vaccinated properly against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Rabies vaccination requires booster doses. Discuss vaccinating horses and other livestock with your veterinarian.
• Not feeding wild animals or allow your pets around them. Teach children to stay away from wild animals. Do not keep pet food outside as that may attract wild animals.
• Protecting all pets, particularly animals too young to be vaccinated, from contact with wild animals. Puppies and kittens can be vaccinated for rabies as early as 3 months old, depending on the vaccine used.
• Contacting your veterinarian if your dog or cat is bitten or scratched by wild animals, such as skunks, bats, foxes, coyotes or raccoons.
• Contacting your doctor and the Humane Society immediately if you or a family member has been bitten by a wild animal or a domestic animal.
• Making sure to keep kids and pets away from skunks or other wild mammals that act abnormally, such as stumbling or acting overly aggressive especially during daylight hours. Report the situation to the Division of Wildlife.
• Not touching a dead skunk or other wildlife on your property. Remove the carcass with a shovel or other tool, and double bag it for the trash.
• Taking steps to bat proof your home.
Rabies is a viral disease than infects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage, and ultimately, death. Rabies is spread primarily through the bite of rabid animals, resulting in the spread of the disease through their infected saliva. Rabies also can be spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into open wounds, cuts or enters through membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Preventive medication is available for people known or suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal. But once rabies symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal. It is important for people bitten or scratched by a wild animal or an unfamiliar animal to contact their doctor.
For more information, visit www.elpasocountyhealth.org.