A skunk sent to the State Public Health Laboratory on Dec. 28, by the Douglas County Health Department has tested positive for rabies.
The Douglas County Health Department was notified on Dec. 31 of the findings. A follow-up investigation has been conducted by the health department to identify any persons or animals that may have come in contact with the rabid skunk.
Bats and skunks are the most common species of animals to carry the rabies virus in Missouri. Rabies is a deadly viral infection that attacks the nervous system and is almost always fatal if early treatment is not initiated.
The risk of exposure to rabies can be reduced by:
• Vaccinating domestic pets and keep their vaccinations up-to-date.
• Keep dogs on leash.
• Do not feed or handle wild animals such as skunks, raccoons, bats and foxes.
• Avoid contact with animals which act strangely or look sick.
• “Bat-proof” homes, cabins, attics and other areas where bats might enter or nest.
If you have been bitten by an animal you should:
• Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
• Contact your physician immediately to discuss rabies post-exposure treatment and tetanus immunization.
• If you suspect the animal has rabies, notify local animal control immediately. Do not try and catch the animal yourself.
• If the biting animal is caught it can be quarantined for observation, or euthanized to see if it has rabies.
• The brain of an animal must be intact to test for rabies. Do not shoot a potentially rabid animal in the head.
• If you find a bat in a room with a person who has been sleeping, or a bat with an unattended child, a mentally disabled or intoxicated person, consult your doctor immediately even if there isn’t any evidence of a bite or scratch. (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 47, No.1, Jan. 16, 1998)
If a person is exposed to rabies it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. Once symptoms of rabies appear it is almost always too late to prevent death.
If you would like further information or have questions please contact the Douglas County Health Department at (417) 683-4213.