First Rabies-Positive Skunk of 2019 Found in Jefferson County
A skunk found in the foothills area of unincorporated Jefferson County, near I-70 and Paradise Road, has tested positive for rabies. This is the first animal to test positive for rabies in Jefferson County in 2019
Rabies is most often found in bats and skunks in the area, but can also be found in foxes, raccoons and other wild mammals. In 2018, 18 skunks and 8 bats tested positive for rabies in Jefferson County, and multiple domestic pets and humans were exposed to the virus.
Though the skunk tested on March 20 had no known human or domestic animal exposures, Jefferson County residents and visitors should be cautious of wildlife and aware of the risks of exposure, including potential quarantine for animals, post-exposure prophylaxis for humans and in some cases, euthanasia for infected pets.
Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals and is nearly always fatal. The virus is shed in the saliva of infected animals. People or animals can get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal or from a rabid animal’s saliva if it comes in contact with their eyes, nose, mouth or open wounds, in which case immediate medical attention is necessary.
Jefferson County Public Health encourages residents to take several precautions to prevent exposure and minimize harm from this deadly virus:
- Vaccinate all domestic pets and valuable livestock against rabies and ensure vaccines are kept up-to-date. Now that rabies has been found in a wild animal within the county, a domestic animal encounter with any wild animal will be treated like an exposure to a rabid animal. Domestic animals without up-to-date rabies vaccinations will be classified as high risk and be required to undergo a 120-day quarantine.
- Avoid contact with any wild animals, especially those that act unusually. A healthy wild animal will generally avoid human contact. Do not feed wild animals, since this reduces their natural fear of humans.
- Teach children to stay away from all wild animals, stray domestic pets or dead animals, and to tell an adult if they are scratched or bitten. Please remind children of all ages that a sick, dying or dead animal may carry diseases that humans can contract — trying to help an animal can cause more harm than good.
- Do not allow pets to roam free, since this can increase the chance they could be exposed without your knowledge. Do not leave pet food or livestock feed outside or feed your outdoor pet more than they can finish, as this will encourage a wildlife presence.
- If your pet comes into contact with a wild animal, cover all exposed skin with gloves, long sleeves and a face mask for the eyes, nose and mouth while cleaning them to minimize your risk of exposure to the virus.
- If a person has been bitten or scratched by a wild mammal, they should wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, seek immediate medical attention and notify their local animal control agency. Prompt medical treatment is key to preventing rabies after a possible exposure.
To report a suspicious or dead animal or an animal bite, please contact your local animal control agency, or Jefferson County Animal Control at 303-271-5070.