Skunk tests positive for rabies

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Coconino County Health Department (CCHD) officials announced on Thursday, Sept. 4 that a rabid skunk was found in a sparsely populated area east of Flagstaff. The tests were conducted by the Arizona Department of Health Services State Laboratory. Family pets that may have been exposed to the rabid skunk have been quarantined to ensure containment of the disease and are being monitored for signs of rabies. There are no known human exposures to the skunk.

Rabies is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord of animals and humans. It is caused by a virus present in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted to humans through contact with the live virus.

The Coconino County Health Department recommends the following precautions to reduce risk of exposure to rabies:

• Avoid any wild animal, particularly one that appears to be sick, is dead, or is behaving in a strange manner. Examples of strange behavior in wild animals include: a lack of fear of people, increased aggressiveness, staggering, trembling, paralysis, and bats that are unable to fly or are active during the daytime. Sometimes, rabid animals do not show any signs of illness before death from rabies. People who feed or handle wild animals, and pets coming into contact with wild animals, risk possible exposure to rabies.

• Report any unusual behavior. If you notice animals behaving in a strange manner, contact the CCHD Animal Management office at (928) 679-8756. After normal business hours and on weekends, contact the Coconino County Sheriff's Office at (928) 774-4523.

• Have your pet vaccinated against rabies. Arizona State law requires all dogs to be properly vaccinated and licensed. It is also strongly recommended that cats be vaccinated against rabies. Vaccinations are available at local veterinarians or at periodically scheduled CCHD Rabies Vaccination Clinics.

CCHD Vaccination Clinics are scheduled as follows:

- World Rabies Day Event, Saturday, Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. at Olsen's Grain, 2250 North Steve's Blvd. Free rabies shots offered by Second Chance Center for Animals. (No other animal vaccinations will be available at the World Rabies Day clinic.)

- Rabies Vaccination Clinic, Saturday, Oct. 25 from 1 - 4 p.m. at the Coconino County Health Department, 2500 North Fort Valley Road. Vaccinations provided by Alpine Animal Hospital. Rabies vaccinations will be offered for $6.00. Other vaccination costs will vary. Cash only.

The CCHD Animal Management office conducts an active program to monitor for rabies. Bats that have been found dead are routinely tested, as are many other wild animals, in order to monitor rabies in those populations.

Pets, including dogs and cats, that come into contact with wild animals may be quarantined until it can be determined if they are adequately vaccinated or were not exposed to rabies. If records showing the pet is currently vaccinated against rabies, the exposed animal will kept under close observation for 45 days. If the pet is not currently vaccinated against rabies or has an unknown vaccination status, the animal will be quarantined for 180 days.

For more information, call Coconino County Health Department Animal Management at (928) 679-8756.

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