3/23/2013

Rabid Skunk Confirmed in Pulaski County (Arkansas Department of Health, March 23 2013)

[Source: Arkansas Department of Health, full page: (LINK).]

Friday, Mar 22, 2013

Rabid Skunk Confirmed in Pulaski County

 

Little Rock -- The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) confirmed a skunk found this week near Maumelle in northwest Pulaski County has tested positive for rabies.

Rabies in Arkansas is most often found in skunks and bats. This is the first confirmed case of rabies in Pulaski County in 2013, and the first land animal found to be rabid in the county since 1980. Each year, ADH confirms some rabid bats in Pulaski County, but rabid skunks are unusual. In Arkansas, domestic animals such as cats, dogs, horses and livestock most often get rabies from skunks.

Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord and is a fatal disease. It is most often seen in animals such as skunks, bats and foxes. Cats, dogs and livestock can also develop rabies, especially if they are not vaccinated. The rabies virus lives in the saliva (spit) and nervous tissue of infected animals and is spread when they bite or scratch. Rabies may be spread if saliva from an infected animal touches broken skin, open wounds or the lining of the mouth, eyes or nose.

Arkansas typically averages 47 rabid animals each year; however, the state had 131 rabid animals in 2012 -- nearly triple the average. So far in 2013, there have been 41 rabid animals identified.

Susan Weinstein, DVM, Arkansas public health veterinarian, said that one rabid animal in an area is a warning sign. “When we find one skunk with rabies in an area, it’s safe to assume there are more rabid animals in the wild,” Weinstein said. “This increases the chance that pets and livestock may come into contact with rabid animals.”

Rabid skunks may be seen out in daylight, which is unusual behavior for skunks, or they may get into a dog pen or under a house and behave aggressively toward other animals. An animal usually dies within one week of exhibiting signs of rabies. Not all rabid animals act in these ways, so you should avoid all wild animals -- especially skunks, bats and stray cats and dogs.

Arkansas law requires all cats and dogs be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. This not only protects the animal, but also acts as a barrier between the wildlife exposures of rabies and people, as pets are more likely to be exposed to a rabid animal than people are.

Horses and livestock should also be vaccinated against rabies, especially in areas known to have rabid skunks.

If you think you have become exposed to an animal with rabies, wash your wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. Contact your physician and county health unit immediately and report the incident. The animal in question should be captured, if possible, without damaging its head or risking further exposure.

To protect your pets and your family from rabies:

  • Keep all cats and dogs up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations
  • Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals
  • Keep family pets indoors at night
  • Bat-proof your home
  • Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if any animal bites them
  • Teach children to avoid wildlife, strays and all other animals they do not know well

Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to the local health unit. Do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies. Depending on the species, an animal can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment.

For more information, call your county health unit or Dr. Weinstein at 501-280-4136. To learn more about rabies visit http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsServices/infectiousDisease/zoonoticDisease/Pages/Rabies.aspx.

To see a current map of confirmed rabies cases in Arkansas visit: http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsServices/infectiousDisease/zoonoticDisease/Documents/rabies/Map/RabiesMap2013.pdf.

Contact: Office of Health Communications and Marketing, Ed Barham, 501-280-4147

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