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Skunk found in Brighton tests positive for rabies

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By The Staff

BRIGHTON — Residents are advised to be cautious with their pets and outdoor animals after Tri-County Health officials confirmed a skunk found in Brighton was infected with rabies.

In a Feb. 27 release, Tri-County Health spokesman Gary Sky reported that a skunk found in Brighton just south of the Weld County line had tested positive for rabies.

Dr. Evan Dowdy, of Horizon Veterinary Clinic, noticed rabies-related signs in the skunk and tested it. Tri-County Health officials say there is no reason to believe at this time that other animals or humans were exposed to the rabies-infected skunk.

“This rabid skunk in Adams County, along with several others identified over the last few years, confirms that rabies is endemic in skunks in the Front Range and Eastern Plains,” said Richard L. Vogt, MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. “When rabies spreads from skunk to skunk, the risk increases for people, unvaccinated pets and livestock.”

This incident is the second time a skunk has tested positive for rabies in Adams County “since the emergence of skunk variant rabies in Colorado in 2007,” according to the release. The first confirmed rabid skunk in Adams County was in May 2010, found in an eastern portion of the county just south of Morgan County.

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. People or animals can get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal or from a rabid animal’s saliva if it comes in contact with their eyes, nose, mouth or open wounds. Immediate medical treatment is required after exposure to an infected animal.

“Skunks do not hibernate over the winter, so this rabies case is a good opportunity to remind people that having dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies is an easy and effective way to protect pets and humans from this deadly disease. We encourage the owners of horses, cattle and other livestock to consult with their veterinarians regarding rabies vaccination for those animals,” Vogt added.

To prevent exposure to this virus, skunks and other wildlife should not be handled or fed. A healthy animal usually will avoid human contact.

In addition to rabies vaccinations for pets and livestock, 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.
— If a person has been bitten or scratched by a wild mammal, they should seek immediate medical attention and also notify their local public health agency. Prompt medical treatment is the key to preventing rabies after a possible exposure.
— 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 you have questions about rabies or whom to call in your area for response to a suspect animal, call COHELP, the statewide public health information line, at 1-877-462-2911. More information about rabies is available at www.tchd.org/rabies.htm.