Dog tests positive for rabies in El Paso County

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A dog in El Paso County has tested positive for rabies for the first time in 45 years, according to the health department. 

El Paso County Public Health did not say where or when the dog was found. It tested positive for the disease on Friday. 

The health department said people and animals who were exposed to the rabid dog have been assessed and are receiving preventative vaccination. 

The health department said all domestic animals in El Paso County are required by law to be vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. The health department said they couldn’t confirm where the dog’s rabies vaccine came from, or who administered it. 

“Self-administering a rabies vaccine that was purchased at a store does not guarantee protection against rabies and the pet will be considered unvaccinated,” the health department said in a statement. 

Two other animals–a skunk and a fox–have also tested positive for rabies in the county this year. The health department said the last reported case of a rabid dog in El Paso County was in 1974. 

In 2018, 60 skunks, six bats, and a raccoon tested positive for the disease in El Paso County. That’s up from 2017, when 21 skunks and seven bats tested positive for rabies. 

“Rabies is a viral disease that infects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage, and ultimately, death,” the health department said. “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 the eyes, nose, or mouth.”

A “very effective” preventative vaccination is available for people who may have been bitten by a rabid animal. Rabies is usually fatal in humans once symptoms appear. 

The health department recommends the following precautions for preventing rabies: 

  • 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.
  • 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 to reduce the risk of exposure to other domestic animals and wildlife. 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.
  • Do not touch or feed wild animals. Wild animals like skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available – please don’t leave pet food outdoors.
  • Do not try to touch or help sick animals as they may carry diseases that are a risk to humans.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with new information from the health department about the source of the rabid dog’s vaccine. 

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