Public Health - News

Posted on: March 7, 2017

Rabies Confirmed in a Skunk Found in Wheat Ridge

Jefferson County, CO — A skunk collected in Wheat Ridge near Sheridan and 35th Avenue was infected with rabies, according to lab results from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The skunk came into contact with two dogs that were not up to date with their vaccines. The dogs have received booster vaccinations and are now in quarantine. The skunk was submitted to CDPHE and the positive results of a rabies test were reported this afternoon to Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH). This is the first wild animal in Jefferson County that has tested positive for rabies this year.


In 2016, 88 animals in Colorado — both wild and domestic — were confirmed rabies positive by the CDPHE laboratory. Ten of those were from Jefferson County. The vast majority of these were wild animals with skunks and bats being the most common.


The public is strongly urged to vaccinate all of their domestic pets and valuable livestock against rabies and to be sure vaccinations are kept up-to-date. Now that rabies has been found in a terrestrial animal within the county, any domestic animal encounter with any wild animal will be treated like an exposure to a rabid animal. Domestic animals with one expired rabies or without any rabies vaccinations will be classified as high risk and be required to undergo a120-day quarantine.


“This rabies case is a good opportunity to remind people that having dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies is an easy and effective way to protect pets and humans from this deadly disease,” said Dave Volkel, Environmental Health Specialist with Jefferson County Public Health’s Zoonosis Program. “We also encourage the owners of horses, cattle and other livestock to consult with their veterinarians regarding rabies vaccination.”


Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals and is nearly always fatal. The virus is shed in the saliva of infected animals. People or animals can get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal or from a rabid animal’s saliva if it comes in contact with their eyes, nose, mouth or open wounds. Immediate medical treatment is required after exposure to an infected animal. Skunks, bats, foxes, raccoons and other wildlife should not be handled or fed to prevent exposure to this virus.


In addition to rabies vaccinations for pets and livestock, here are additional precautions to prevent possible exposure to rabies:

  • Avoid contact with any wild animals, especially any that act unusually. A healthy wild animal will generally avoid human contact.
  • Teach children to stay away from all wild animals, stray domestic pets or any dead animals and tell an adult if they are scratched or bitten.
  • Wildlife suffering from rabies will often be out during the day, act aggressively and violently approach people or pets. Rabid wildlife might also stumble or have trouble walking.
  • Do not let pets roam freely, since this can increase the chance that they could be exposed without your knowledge.
  • Contact your veterinarian if your dog or cat is bitten or scratched by a wild animal.
  • If a person has been bitten or scratched by a wild mammal, they should wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, seek immediate medical attention and notify their local public health agency. Prompt medical treatment is key to preventing rabies after a possible exposure.
  • Do not feed wild animals, since this reduces their natural fear of humans
  • Do not leave pet food or livestock feed outside or feed more than your outdoor pet will finish in one feeding.


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