FREMONT COUNTY- Fremont County Department of Public Health and Environment (FCDPHE) has confirmed that a skunk collected in Canon City was infected with the rabies virus.

FCDPHE was notified of positive result by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on June 22. The skunk came in contact with a family pet which was unfortunately not up-to-date on rabies vaccination. FCDPHE is consulting with CDPHE and the owner to determine next steps.

Unvaccinated pets exposed to rabid animals must undergo a 120-day quarantine at a secure facility or be euthanized. There was no known human exposure to the skunk. While rabies has previously been found in bats, this is the first terrestrial animal that has tested positive for rabies in Fremont County.

The rabies virus affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. Post-exposure prophylaxis is available to prevent the infection if administered quickly. The virus is shed in the saliva of infected animals. People or animals can get rabies from a bite of a rabid animal, or rarely from infected saliva getting into the eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound.

Animals infected with rabies may act more aggressive or more tame than usual. Nocturnal animals such as skunks, foxes and bats may be out during the day. Rabid animals may stagger, tremble, or seem weak. Bats may be found on the ground, unable to fly. Rabid animals may appear agitated and excited or paralyzed and frightened. Sometimes, rabid animals do not show any signs of illness before death from rabies.

If an animal is acting strangely, stay away from the animal and contact FCDPHE or your local animal control. The only way to tell whether a wild animal has rabies is to test its brain. If a dog, cat, or ferret is alive 10 days after biting a person, the dog, cat, or ferret did not have rabies at the time of the bite. FCDPHE would like to take this opportunity to remind the public to have all of their domestic pets and livestock vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian and to be sure vaccinations are kept up-to-date. Keeping pets and livestock up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations is the best way to protect pets and humans from this deadly virus. Now that rabies has been found in a terrestrial animal within the county the risk of domestic pets and livestock being exposed to rabid wild animals is increased.

Here are additional ways you can protect yourself and your family from this deadly virus:

• Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals, and be cautious of stray dogs and cats. Rabid animals do not always appear vicious!

• Teach children to leave wildlife alone. Be sure your child knows to tell you if an animal bites or scratches them.

• Have your veterinarian (or local animal shelter) vaccinate your pets and livestock against rabies. Keep their vaccinations up-to-date.

• Tightly close garbage cans and feed bins. Open trash and feed bags attract wild or stray animals to your home or yard.

• Feed your pets indoors, never leave pet food outside as this attracts wildlife.

• Keep outdoor pets in a fenced yard.

• Avoid all contact with bats, especially bats found on the ground. If you find a bat on the ground, don’t touch it. Report the bat and its location to your local animal control officer or FCDPHE.

• Call your doctor right away if an animal bites you. Contact your local animal control or FCDPHE to report the incident.