Colorado health officials say they’ve confirmed rabies in 2 pet dogs so far this year. These mark the first cases of rabies in dogs in the state since a Texas dog was determined to be infected back in 2003. The last time a native dog was found to be rabid was in 1974.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which announced the rabies cases last week, did not give much information about the animals, beyond saying that one lived in Weld County and the other was from Yuma County. The dogs did not, say health officials, expose the general public to rabies but everyone known to have had contact with the dogs has been treated, as a precaution.
These cases bring the state’s total number of confirmed animal rabies cases so far this year to 43. It also serves as a reminder of just how important it is to keep pets vaccinated against the infection. “It’s critical to make sure all your pets are up to date on their vaccinations,” says Dr. Jennifer House. “This not only protects your pet but keeps your whole family safe.”
In Colorado, most rabies cases are found in skunks and bats. In 2016 the state confirmed 88 animal rabies cases, with 58 of those in bats and 25 in skunks.
Health officials with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development say that they have confirmed the state’s first case of rabies this year. It was found in a big brown bat in Ingham County.
This is right about the time of year that Michigan should be seeing its first rabies, said the Department in its news release.
Big brown bats, which are known scientifically as Eptesicus fuscus, are well-known carriers of the disease, which can be transmitted to humans through bites or the handling of infected bats. But they are also important to the agriculture industry, thanks to their appetite for insects that can devastate food crops.
Last year in Michigan, bats made up 37 of the 41 known cases of animal rabies.
Pet owners in Colorado are being urged to protect their animals from rabies exposure by being skunk-aware.
The state’s Department of Agriculture says that 34 cases of rabies in skunks have been investigated and confirmed so far this year. And because the rabies virus is easily transmittable to other mammals, pet and livestock owners are being urged to beware.
In almost every U.S. state rabies vaccines are required for dogs and cats–and in some states, ferrets. But an effective vaccine also exists for livestock like cattle, sheep and horses. Folks keeping livestock should seriously consider vaccinating, say experts.
The Department also has a collection of tips to minimize your, your pets’ and your livestock’s exposure to skunks. It, like others around the country, advises a common sense approach:
Be especially wary of skunks wandering around during daylight hours.
Be alert in areas where skunks might hole up, like in sheds or under parked equipment.
Don’t encourage skunks to come into your yard by feeding them or leaving pet food bowls outside overnight.
Don’t allow your pets to engage with live skunks or to investigate dead skunks.
If you must remove a dead skunk, do so with a shovel and while wearing gloves.
It’s also important to remember that symptoms of rabies will vary. (Not all rabid animals become aggressive, for example.) And that can make early detection of the infection very difficult. Livestock owners are generally encouraged to isolate any animal demonstrating any behavior that seems “off” or out of character for that animal.
Health officials in Virginia say that they are investigating a confirmed human case of rabies. In the interest of patient privacy they are not, of course, giving out any personal details about the patient. They will say only that the person was bitten by a dog while in India.
Virginia Health Department says that it is meeting with people who had direct contact with the patient, including healthcare workers who treated the patient before the rabies diagnosis, but say that the risk of transmission is incredibly small.
This is Virginia’s second case of rabies in a human since 2009. In that case, the patient was also bitten by a dog while traveling to India.
Human Rabies In India
Worldwide, it is impossible, says the Centers for Disease Control, to estimate just how many people die of rabies each year, although the World Health Organization, or WHO, estimates that 36% of human rabies deaths occur in India. As many as 60% of those deaths are children.
Good numbers for developing nations are hard to come by due to underreporting but 99% of human rabies worldwide are believed to result from rabid dog bites.
Human Rabies in the U.S.
In the U.S., by contrast, human rabies cases are virtually unheard of, with only 1 to 3 cases reported nationwide each year. And in at least 8 of the 28 known cases confirmed in the U.S. since 2009, the patient actually became infected outside the country.
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