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Home News Skunk Positive for Rabies in De Baca County
David Morgan
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Skunk Positive for Rabies in De Baca County

February 26, 2016 - Zoonotic Diseases - Disease

Public Encouraged to Keep Animals Vaccinations Up-To-Date

The New Mexico Department of Health is urging pet and livestock owners in De Baca County and surrounding areas to vaccinate their animals against rabies after a skunk located near Fort Sumner tested positive for rabies this week. This is the first skunk that has tested positive for rabies in De Baca County based on records that go back to 1966. A bat tested positive for rabies in De Baca County in 1974.

The skunk had been acting strangely during daytime hours on a local ranch and was then found dead. The carcass was sent to the New Mexico Department of Health’s Scientific Laboratory Division where it tested positive for rabies this week.

"This recent positive rabies test in a skunk shows the importance of keeping pets, horses, and valuable livestock up-to-date on rabies vaccinations," said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. "Domestic animals can come in contact with rabid wild animals and then transmit the disease to humans."

Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects all mammals and can be prevented, but not cured. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. Rabies vaccination of dogs and cats is mandated by state law. Unvaccinated pets that are exposed to a rabid animal either need to be euthanized or be put in strict isolation for 6 months to prevent them from exposing people to rabies.

“A skunk that tests positive for rabies is an indication that there may be other wildlife in the areas with the disease,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, state public health veterinarian at the Department of Health. “People need to avoid contact with all wild animals as several species are known to carry rabies. If you are bitten by a wild animal, seek medical attention immediately.”

The Department of Health recommends the following to keep you and your family safe from rabies:

  • Keep pets on a leash at all times.  Pets should be up-to-date on rabies vaccinations and wearing current license tags on their collar. If your cat or dog has been bitten or scratched, call your pet’s veterinarian, even if the wound is superficial.
  • Horses and other livestock should be considered for rabies vaccination also to protect them from wild rabid animals that may attack them.
  • Stay away from wild or unfamiliar animals. Do not attempt to feed, approach, or touch wild animals (alive or dead).  Teach this important message to your children and keep a close eye on your kids at all times.
  • If you or someone you know are bitten by an animal, or come into contact with an animal’s saliva, wash the exposed site immediately with soap and water. Be sure to report the bite to local animal control and seek medical care as soon as possible.
  • If your cat or dog has been bitten or scratched, call your pet’s veterinarian, even if the wound is superficial.
  • If you see a sick or dead wild animal, or a wild animal acting abnormally, report it to your local animal control authorities or the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish at (505) 827-9376. Rabid animals may show no fear of people and may even seem friendly or become aggressive.

For more information about rabies call the Reporting & Surveillance hotline at 1-833-796-8773 or visit the Rabies section of our website.

Media Contact

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Versión en Español

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Zorrillo Positivo a Rabia en el Condado De Baca