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Skunk tests positive for rabies in El Paso County; third this year


Last updated 5/13/2020 at 1:30pm

A skunk was recently confirmed to have rabies, making it the third to test positive for the disease in El Paso County this year. Rabies is more common in the summer months, and Public Health is urging residents to protect themselves by keeping pets up to date on rabies vaccinations and making sure never to touch or feed wild or stray animals.

Rabies is a virus that infects wild mammals, especially bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. Squirrels and rabbits are not considered a rabies risk. Rabies affects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage, and is nearly always fatal once symptoms appear. Rabies spreads primarily through the bite of rabid animals, via infected saliva. Rabies can also be spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into open wounds, cuts or enters through membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.

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.

Take these precautions to prevent rabies:

Vaccinate your pets against rabies by using a licensed veterinarian. Rabies shots must 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 such as skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available – please do not leave pet food outdoors.

If people or pets are bitten or scratched by an aggressive wild or unknown animal, call your doctor and report to El Paso County Public Health’s bite report portal.

Bat bites can be difficult to detect. If you find bat in your house and are unsure how long it has been there, do not release the bat. Contact Public Health at (719) 578-3220.

If you encounter a lost or stray dog or cat, contact the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region for options at (719) 473-1741.

Recent confirmed rabies in El Paso County:

2019: 16 (5 bats, 9 skunks, 1 fox, 1 dog)

2018: 67 (6 bats, 60 skunks, 1 raccoon)

2017: 28 (7 bats, 21 skunks)

2016: 3 (bats)

2015: 6 (5 bats, 1 cat)

2014: 10 (bats)

2013: 8 (4 bats, 2 foxes, 2 skunks)

2012: 3 (bats)

2011: 15 (5 bats, 1 fox, 9 skunks)

2010: 17 (8 bats, 4 foxes, 5 skunks)

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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