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Watch out for skunks, rabies

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PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- 2018 has been a record breaking year for rabies, particularly in the skunk population. So far, there have been 49 skunks that have been confirmed positive for rabies in El Paso County, and skunks are now considered to be the main source of rabies in Colorado. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- When people hear the word rabies they may think of the dog in the movie ‘Old Yeller,’ but now Coloradans should think of skunks.

2018 has been a record breaking year for rabies, particularly in the skunk population. In the past, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, bats were traditionally the main source of rabies in Colorado. Thus far, there have been 49 skunks that have been confirmed positive for rabies in El Paso County, and skunks are now considered to be the main source of rabies in Colorado.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals that is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. While there is medication that can be administered after the bite of an infected animal, if a human or animal contracts the disease then it is ultimately fatal.

Even though rabies transmission to humans in the United States is very rare, about one to three cases are reported annually, the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment is still offering recommendations on how to protect yourself and your family.

First, it is important to vaccinate your pets for rabies. Your pets should also always wear a collar with their current license tags. Secondly, when your pets are outside a fenced yard, it is important to keep them on a leash. If they do end up having contact with a skunk, bat, or other wild animal, immediately report to local animal control. Lastly, and most importantly, enjoy wildlife from a distance. Do NOT attempt to feed, approach, or touch wild animals and be sure to report wild animals that are acting abnormally to local animal control.

If you have any questions about rabies or any other communicable diseases feel free to contact Public Health at 719-556-1225.

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