Rabies Confirmed in Cow from Bent County
The CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has confirmed rabies in a cow from Bent County. Due to exposure with the rabid cow, four individuals now are receiving post-exposure rabies vaccinations. Two skunks with rabies were reported in the same vicinity this spring. The cow most likely was exposed through contact with a wild animal, such as a skunk. Skunk rabies now is present in most of Colorado east of the Continental Divide, with the exceptions of the Denver metro area and Jefferson and Boulder counties. Dr. Elisabeth Lawaczeck, state public health veterinarian at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), says, “Don’t procrastinate — vaccinate! Pet owners should ensure their animals are currently vaccinated through a licensed veterinarian.” Dr. Lawaczeck encourages livestock owners to consult with their local veterinarian on vaccinating their animals, appropriate vaccination practices, and the cost/benefit ratio for large herds. She cautioned that rabies vaccines purchased through feed stores and other businesses not overseen by a licensed veterinarian or veterinary clinic will not be recognized by local public health officials, animal control agencies, or animal health officials in the event of exposure of the domestic animal to a suspected or confirmed rabid animal. ”This also is a good time to remind people to keep their pets’ rabies vaccinations up to date and to take a few simple precautions to avoid pets coming in contact with wildlife,” says Dr. Lawaczeck. “Having pets vaccinated is the simplest and most effective way to protect pets and family members from this deadly disease. I encourage pet owners to contact their veterinarian and get their pets up to date on vaccinations.” Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals, resulting in a fatal disease. The virus is shed in the saliva of infected animals. People and animals get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal or direct contact with saliva from such an animal. Dr. Lawaczeck and the CDPHE are advising the public to take the following precautions to prevent possible exposure to rabies:
• Do not feed wild animals. This brings them closer to your family and reduces their natural fear of humans.
• If you encounter a skunk, raccoon, or other carnivore during daytime hours, leave it alone. If the animal appears sick or aggressive, call your local animal control agency or the Division of Wildlife.
• Teach children to stay away from wild or dead animals.
• Do not allow pets to roam freely, as this increases the chance they may be exposed without your knowledge.
• Keep pets’ rabies vaccinations current, and maintain vaccination records. If you can’t afford to vaccinate your pets for rabies through your local veterinarian, check with local animal shelters or humane societies for reduced vaccination fees. Rabies vaccination performed by owners will not be recognized by local public health or animal control agencies for licensing or in the event of exposure to a rabid animal.
• Discuss rabies vaccination of livestock with your veterinarian. Vaccination should be considered for horses and other equines, breeding livestock, dairy cattle, or other high-value livestock, especially in areas of the state where skunks have been diagnosed with rabies.
• Contact your veterinarian if your dog or cat is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, such as a skunk, bat, fox or raccoon, or comes home smelling like a skunk.
• If a family member or pet has been bitten or scratched by a wild mammal, contact your local public health agency and consult with a physician without delay.
If you have questions about rabies or who to call in your area for response to a wild or suspect animal, please call the Bent County Public Health at 719.456.0517. If you are a resident who lives outside of Bent County, call COHELP at 1.877.462.2911 for more information.