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Public Health Dept. Urges Public to Vaccinate Pets and Avoid Wildlife to Prevent Rabies

 

October 3, 2018



In 2018, 66 animals (59 skunks, 6 bats and 1 raccoon) have tested positive for rabies in El Paso County. El Paso County Public Health is urging residents to protect themselves by never touching or feeding wild or stray animals, and keeping pets up to date on rabies vaccinations. 

Rabies is a viral disease that 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.

 

If bitten or scratched by a rabid animal, rabies is usually fatal in humans once symptoms appear. Preventive vaccination is available for people known or suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal. It is important for people bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal to contact their doctor immediately.

Skunks, bats, foxes and raccoons are the most common animals to get rabies in Colorado. While all animals can get rabies, bites from squirrels, rabbits, or rodents are not considered a risk for rabies.

The steps citizens can take when they encounter an aggressive wild animal may depend on the municipality where they live and whether the wild animal has had direct contact (bitten, scratched) a person or pet.

If a wild animal has bitten or scratched a person or pet, contact El Paso County Public Health at 719-578-3220 and your health care provider. If the animal is acting aggressive and is in a highly populated area, citizens may also contact Public Health to determine if the wild animal can be trapped.

If people or pets are bitten or scratched by an aggressive wild or unknown domestic animal report it at www.elpasocountyhealth.org/report-an-animal-bite

To report a dangerous/aggressive animal situation involving domestic pets, call Animal Law Enforcement at 719-302-8798.

For non-emergency, general questions about rabies, call COHELP at 1-877-462-2911 on Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. 

Take these precautions to prevent rabies: 

Vaccinate your pets against rabies by using a licensed veterinarian. Rabies shots need to be boosted, so check your pet’s records or talk to your veterinarian.

When walking or hiking with your dog, protect them and wildlife by keeping your dog on a leash.

Keep cats and other pets inside at night to reduce the risk of exposure to other domestic animals and wildlife. Keep dogs within your sight (in a fenced yard, or on leash) during the day while outside.

Contact your veterinarian promptly if you believe your pet has been exposed to a wild animal.

Do not touch or feed wild animals. Wild animals like skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available – please don’t leave pet food outdoors.

If you encounter a lost or stray dog or cat, contact the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region for more information at hsppr.org/lost.

 

How to recognize sick wildlife: 

Healthy wild animals are normally afraid of humans. 

Sick animals often do not run away when spotted by people.

Wildlife suffering from rabies will often act aggressively and violently approach people or pets.

However, sometimes rabid animals are overly quiet and passive and want to hide. If they are hiding, leave them alone. Rabid wildlife might also stumble or have trouble walking.

 

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