Rabid skunks on the rise; Denver-area animal owners warned

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(Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — Pet and livestock owners should make sure their animals’ rabies vaccinations are up to date because more skunks are testing positive for rabies, according to the Tri-County Health Department and Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Three rabid skunks have been found in Adams, Arapahoe and Elbert counties in the past week, the Tri-County Health Department says. So far, six rabid skunks have been identified in these counties this year.

Rabid skunks were reported earlier this month in Boulder and Weld Counties, marking an increase in rabies in Colorado among animals that travel predominantly on the ground, according to Boulder County health officials. The closer proximity of these rabies cases to Denver means Denver citizens may need to be on the lookout.

“Rabies can spread from skunks to other mammals and we are concerned about the increase in skunk activity this time of year,” said John Douglas, Jr., MD, the Executive Director of the Tri-County Health Department.

Any mammals, including humans, can contract rabies from contact with the saliva of an infected animal through a bite or scratch. Symptoms of rabies include an increase in saliva and drooling, nocturnal animals seen out during daylight, and slow or difficult movement and aggressive behavior.

Rabies is virtually always fatal unless treated before symptoms appear.

“Rabies is a deadly disease and vaccination is the single best method to protect your pets and livestock,” said Douglas.

Animal owners should be vigilant in monitoring any health issues that might arise from possible exposure to rabid animals.

Other recommendations from the Tri-County Health Department, in addition to vaccinating animals, include:

  • Be aware of skunks out during the day. This is abnormal behavior and these animals should be avoided.
  • Don’t feed wild animals or allow your pets around them. Be sure to teach children to stay away from wild animals. Avoid leaving pet food outside as that may attract a wild animal.
  • Contact your veterinarian right away if any of your animals are bitten or scratched by any wild animal, particularly skunks, bats, foxes or raccoons.
  • If your animals exhibit any dramatic behavioral changes, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.  Isolate and avoid contact with these animals if possible.
  • If you have been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, contact your physician and Tri-County Health Department (303-220-9200) right away.

If you have questions about rabies, call the Tri-County Health Department at 303-220-9200 or COHELP, the statewide public health information line, at 1-877-462-2911.

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