5 skunks test positive for rabies in Weld County

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WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- Five skunks captured in Weld County since January have tested positive for rabies, health officials said Wednesday.

The skunks were found in Erie, Evans, Longmont, Mead and Keenesburg. One skunk was found on Main Street in downtown Mead and another was found within the city limits of Evans.

"We are warning people to not touch or go near wild animals," Cheryl Darnell, laboratory manager at the Weld County Health Department, said in a news release. "It’s also vital to vaccinate pets such as dogs and cats, including horses.  This year we are seeing more cases of rabies in residential areas."

Any mammal, including humans, can contract rabies if they are bit or come into contact with the saliva of an infected animal, officials said.

Signs of rabies include the increase in saliva and drooling, nocturnal animals seen out during daylight, slow or difficult movement and aggressive behavior.

Rabies can infect numerous wild animals, including foxes, raccoons, coyotes and bats. It is transmitted through saliva through the bite of an infected animal and can be transmitted through open wounds and scratches.

The health department said the best ways to avoid exposure to rabies include:

*Do not feed, touch or handle wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats

*Have dogs, cats, horses and livestock vaccinated regularly

*Spay or neuter pets to reduce stray numbers

*Do not feed wild animals or keep pet food outside, which could attract animals

A map of rabies cases in the county is available on the Weld County website.

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