Thursday, January 30, 2014

Skunk Rabies

Skunk Rabies

Although rabies can infect any warm-blooded creature, skunks are particularly susceptible to the disease. In 2013, skunks comprised about 53 percent of all positive rabies results of animals submitted for testing in Colorado. Infected skunks transmit rabies to other animals or humans through bites or direct contact with the skunk’s saliva into a fresh wound, into the eyes, nasal membranes, or mouth (skunk spray is not considered a rabies exposure). When skunk numbers are high, the chances are greater for rabies to be spread within the population. Rabies is also more likely to spread to other animals, such as pets, livestock, and humans. Despite the potential risk, it is not appropriate to indiscriminately kill skunks as only a small percentage of skunks will be infected.
Clinical signs of rabies include docility, aggression, wandering, listlessness, salivation, and tremors. However, it is impossible to diagnose rabies using visual signs as these behaviors are also clinical signs of other diseases. In addition, an infected animal can look perfectly normal and healthy. Clinical signs of the infection occur quite late in the rabies lifecycle. Skunks that are exposed to the rabies virus may not show visual symptoms for weeks or even months, as the virus may become sequestered. Stresses such as fighting, sexual maturity, and environmental change may trigger the clinical disease. This delayed rabies potential underlies the importance of not keeping skunks, even young ones, as pets. Skunks observed during the daylight are considered by public health officials to be acting abnormally and as a result are a threat to transmit rabies.
The best way to avoid rabies exposure is to avoid skunks. Parents should warn children to never approach pet skunks or other wild animals. The motto should be “If you care, leave them there.” If an animal appears injured, contact your local animal control office. Vaccinate dogs, cats, and livestock against rabies. People in high-risk occupations (field biologists, animal controllers, veterinarians) should consider pre-exposure vaccinations.
In case of skunk bite:

  • Scrub the wound with warm water and soap for at least 20 minutes.
  • Apply an iodine first aid solution or cream.
  • Seek medical attention.
  • If possible, capture the animal. Trapping is not very effective in capturing sick skunks so shooting may be necessary. Do not damage the animal’s brain as health officials need the brain tissue to test for the virus.
  • Avoid direct contact with the carcass and its body fluids by wearing latex or vinyl gloves.
  • Use a shovel and place the carcass in two plastic bags sealed to prevent any leaks.
  • Contact your local veterinarian or animal control official (sheriff or police).
  • If there will be a significant time delay in preparing and shipping the carcass, keep it cool or frozen in a disposable cooler. Disinfect equipment with a bleach solution diluted at a rate of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rabies in Colorado 2013

Rabies update for 2013:
Rabies in Colorado in 2013: 191 confirmed rabid animals of which 102 (53.4%) were skunks
Known/strongly suspected exposures to lab confirmed rabid animals: 53humans, 214domestic animals, and 13 exotic animals.

This is a new record for Colorado
Please vaccinate your pets!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

We wish you a happy and healthful 2014!

One new years resolution could be to make sure all pets are vaccinated and well cared for. 2013 was a record year for rabies in Colorado unfortunately, but there are steps to prevent this dangerous disease. Please follow these 10 steps:

 1. Vaccinate your pets against rabies. For new puppies and kittens it is extremely important to be in constant supervision of the animal while it is outdoors before it can be vaccinated. Puppies and kittens can be vaccinated as early as 12 weeks. The animal will be considered currently vaccinated 28 days after the shot was given. So it is important to maintain supervision outdoors through the 28 days.

2. Don't keep wild animals as pets. Americans keep more than 1.5 million exotic animals as pets -- animals that cannot be vaccinated against rabies.

3. Do not handle wildlife -- dead or alive. Although the virus won't survive very long in dead animals, you should wear moisture-proof gloves before picking them up.

4. Avoid animals displaying unnatural behavior. Wild animals that are unusually friendly or displaying other unnatural behaviors may have the rabies virus.

5. Discourage contact between pets and wildlife. Don't let your pets roam or encourage them to interact with unfamiliar domestic or wild animals.

6. Feed your pets indoors. Leaving food outside often attracts stray dogs, cats, and wildlife to your yard.

7. Animal-proof your trash. Make sure your trash lids are locked, and don't leave bags of garbage outside the cans.

8. Prevent wild animals from getting into the house. Prune tree branches that overhang the roof. Keep screens on windows and cover small openings, such as chimneys, furnace ducts, and eaves.

9. Report all stray animals to animal control. Stray animals may not be vaccinated for rabies. They also run a high risk of exposure to wild animals who carry the disease.

10. Give your child some guidelines to follow. Do not frighten young children, but make sure they learn some basic rules about protecting themselves from strange or unfamiliar animals.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays

San Luis Valley Rabies Watch wishes you all happy holidays!
Stay warm and enjoy food and good company.