Wheat Ridge mom exposed to rabies, worries about uptick in area

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WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. -- A mother going through treatment for rabies said she is concerned about the uptick of rabies cases in the area and the lack of awareness about the issue.

Jesi Josten's dog Dutch was playing in her yard when she noticed he started rolling around continuously in the grass.

She went outside and immediately smelled sunk. She took his muzzle in her hand and smelled him, not realizing at the time that Dutch had also killed the skunk and had had it in his mouth.

Later, when she found the dead skunk in her backyard, animal control removed it and sent the animal for testing.

The skunk tested positive for rabies. And because Josten had touched Dutch's muzzle and had cuts near her cuticles, health officials told her there was a chance she had been exposed.

"It is definitely alarming. Even though I heard rabies was in the area in skunks, I also thought it would never happen to me. It would never be something in a million years I had to worry about," Josten said.

According to statistics by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 18 skunks have tested positive for rabies in Jefferson County this year.

Jefferson County's skunk count is two, three or four times higher than every other county is the state. Denver has the second-highest skunk count at nine this year.

The numbers collected in Jefferson County are significantly higher than its rabid skunk count in previous years. In 2016, there were five rabid skunks found. In 2015, that were zero recorded.

For Josten, she knows at least one other person going through rabies treatment; her neighbor was exposed when her dog attacked a skunk.

Josten said she's surprised to see the number of rabid skunks going up, yet there hasn't been much awareness raised about the issue.

"It definitely, definitely is a problem," Josten said. "I kind of wish that it was more well-known. And it does worry for me with my kids."

She is glad she kept her dog's rabies vaccinations up to date. In hindsight, she wishes she would have picked up long rubber gloves before handling her dog, to guarantee she wasn't exposed.

"Had I read that or heard that or known that, I would have never touched him at first. I would have just left him alone and gotten the gloves and I wouldn't be dealing with that right now," Josten said.

She and her dog will be OK. Dutch has to be quarantined for 45 days and receive a rabies booster shot.