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.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Even though it seems as if it has slowed down with reported cases of rabid animals in Pueblo, rabies has not gone away. There are still rabid animals out there and the best protection is to make sure your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccine!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some restrictions

CDC updated their information on human rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin used for post exposure prophylaxis. The message for the general public is still to make sure your pets are up to date on rabies vaccine. For more information about this:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dogs deserve better

Dogs want to be with their humans, If dogs are tied up or never socialized they are more likely to bite. This is a door-hanger available at Alamosa County Public Health Department. Please come by and pick one up. Ola