Boulder County, CO - A skunk found on Lefthand Canyon Drive located north of Boulder was confirmed positive for rabies on Thursday, June 6. A resident reported the skunk after contacting her veterinarian because her dog had contact with the skunk.
This is the first case of rabies documented in a terrestrial (ground dwelling) species since 1963. This is important because the risk of rabies transmission to pets or humans is much higher from terrestrial species than from bats. It’s a warning to all Boulder County residents that skunk rabies is present and is a danger in our community, especially to pets and livestock.
“This resident did the right thing by reporting the skunk and keeping all of her pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations,” said Lane Drager, Boulder County Public Health Consumer Protection Program Coordinator. “Her diligence helped to save her pets from needing to be quarantined or euthanized.”
Rabies vaccine is very effective at protecting pets and livestock from rabies infection.
Unvaccinated pets that come into contact with a rabid animal must either be euthanized or vaccinated and quarantined at a veterinary facility, which can be very expensive. Pets that are behind with rabies vaccinations must be vaccinated and quarantined for either 90 or 180 days, depending on the vaccination status. Pets fully vaccinated by licensed veterinarians need a rabies booster and 45 days of observation at home.”
So far this season, 69 animals in Colorado have tested positive for rabies: 58 skunks, 5 bats, 2 raccoons, 2 cats, 1 horse, and 1 fox. In addition to this skunk, 2 rabies-positive bats have been found in Boulder, and 37 other animals have been found in counties neighboring Boulder County.
“Rabies is here to stay in Colorado, so our best defense is taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves and our pets,” said Drager.
Bats are the most common animal source of rabies in Colorado; however, there has been an influx of terrestrial rabies during the last few years. Terrestrial rabies, such as skunk rabies, is carried by animals that travel predominantly on the ground.
“Rabies in ground-dwelling animals increases the risk of rabies exposure to pets and livestock,” said Drager. “If you know of a person or domestic animal that has or may have had contact with wildlife, or if you see a skunk, raccoon, fox, or bat that looks sick or is acting unusual, call your local animal control office.”
Exposure to rabies is generally the result of a bite by an infected animal and can be practically undetectable, such as a tiny puncture of the skin by a bat. There is no cure for rabies, and it is nearly always fatal if untreated. If bitten by an animal, residents should immediately and thoroughly cleanse the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention. Treatment for rabies exposure involves a series of immunizations given over a 14-day period.
For general information about rabies, visit www.BoulderCountyVector.org, or call the Colorado Health Information Line at 1-877-462-2911.