Public Health Officials Warn Public to Vaccinate Pets, Avoid Wildlife
The first fox to test positive for rabies this season was found near High Lake View, in Colorado Springs near the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in El Paso County on July 20, 2013. The fox had been hit by a car and later tested for rabies. This is the first terrestrial mammal to test positive for rabies west of I-25 in El Paso County. No one is believed to have been exposed to the rabid fox.
“Rabies has been found in animals in rural areas, and now it’s into urban areas,” said Jill Law, R.N., M.H.A., Director of El Paso County Public Health.
Public Health strongly encourages the public in all the cities and towns within El Paso County to stay alert and take precautions to prevent rabies. Unvaccinated pets or livestock are at risk of infection, which also puts owners or family members at risk.
“Rabies is a fatal disease, so we want to be sure that our community is hearing the message about how important it is to keep pets and livestock rabies vaccination up to date through a licensed veterinarian,” Law says.
Take these precautions to prevent rabies:
PROTECT YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR PETS
· Vaccinate your pets against rabies by using a licensed veterinarian. Rabies shots need to be boosted, so check your pet’s records or talk to your veterinarian.
· Do not feed wild animals. Wild animals like skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available – please don’t leave pet food outdoors.
· Don’t touch or approach wild or stray animals.
· Teach children not to approach or play with unknown animals – dogs, cats, or any wild animals (dead or alive).
· If you or a family member is bitten or scratched by a wild or unknown animal, call your doctor and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (719) 473-1741.
· Contact an animal-control or wildlife conservation agency for assistance with “bat-proofing” your home. Information is also available atwww.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management/
· When walking or hiking with your dog, protect them and wildlife by keeping your dog on a leash.
· Keep cats and other pets inside at night when foxes and skunks are more active. Keep dogs within your sight (in a fenced yard, or on leash) during the day while outside.
· Contact your veterinarian promptly if you believe your pet has been exposed to a wild animal.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE SICK OR DISEASED WILDLIFE
· Healthy wild animals are normally afraid of humans. Foxes are active at night but can also be seen out during the day, especially if they are looking for food for their pups.
· Sick or diseased animals often do not run away when spotted by people.
· Wildlife suffering from rabies will often act aggressively and violently approach people or pets.
· However, sometimes rabid animals are overly quiet and passive and want to hide. If they are hiding, leave them alone. Rabid wildlife might also stumble or have trouble walking.
· Report sick or diseased animals to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife at (719) 227-5200.
Rabies is a viral disease than infects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage, and ultimately, death. Rabies is spread primarily through the bite of rabid animals, resulting in the spread of the disease through their infected saliva. Rabies also can be spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into open wounds, cuts or enters through membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Preventive medication is available for people known or suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal. But once rabies symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal. It is important for people bitten or scratched by a wild animal or an unfamiliar animal to contact their doctor.
Reports of Rabies in El Paso County, Colorado
2013: 1 (1 fox)
2012: 3 (3 bats)
2011: 15 (5 bats, 1 fox, 9 skunks)
2010: 17 (8 bats, 4 foxes, 5 skunks)
For more information, visit www.elpasocountyhealth.org.