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Warning to vaccinate pets issued after rabid skunk found in Black Forest

March 29, 2017 Updated: March 29, 2017 at 5:34 pm
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photo - Striped Skunk - Mephitis mephitis in front of a white background
Striped Skunk - Mephitis mephitis in front of a white background 

After a rabid skunk was found in Black Forest, local public health officials are reminding residents keep their pets' vaccinations up-to-date and refrain from coming in contact with wild or stray animals.

The skunk, which tested positive for the disease on Tuesday, was discovered in a horse stall, according to a news release from El Paso County Public Health.

The agency was not aware of any humans who were exposed to the infected skunk. Rabies, a viral disease that causes the brain to swell and damages other parts of the central nervous system. Unless vaccinated before any sign of symptoms, rabies is "almost always fatal" to people who are bitten or scratched by an infected animal, said Danielle Oller, a spokeswoman for the county's public health department.

A rabid skunk was last found in the county in 2013. In the past three years, public health officials have confirmed cases of rabies in one cat and 18 bats.

"Rabies is endemic on the Front Range of Colorado in bats and skunks, that is why we always encourage pet owners to vaccinate all domestic animals including dogs, cats, horses and livestock that may come in contact with wild animals," Dr. Chris Nevin-Woods, El Paso County Public Health medical director, said in a statement.

The health department offers residents the following tips to protect themselves and their pets from infection:

-Keep dogs on leashes when hiking or walking. Pets should remain inside at night.

-Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your pet has been exposed to a wild animal.

-Refrain from feeding wild animals, which can habituate them to human contact and attract them to urban areas, putting people and pets at risk.

-Call a doctor and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region at 473-1741 if you are bitten or scratched by a stray or wild animal. Also contact the Humane Society if you encounter a wild or stray animal.

-Report sick or diseased animals to Colorado Parks and Wildlife's regional office at 227-5200.

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