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Health department warns of rabid skunks in Durango

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Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 8:36 PM

San Juan Basin Public Health is warning residents to stay away from stray and wild animals after two skunks tested positive for rabies in Durango.

One of those skunks appeared on the steps of Z Chiropractic office in late October on East Second Avenue in Durango.

“He kept flipping around; it was kind of like he was having a seizure,” said David Lamson, new owner of the practice.

Staff noticed the strange behavior about 9 a.m. Oct. 20; it drew the attention of passersby, he said.

The skunk raised its tail as people walked by, but it didn’t spray and it wasn’t aggressive, Lamson said.

La Plata County Animal Protection officers euthanized the skunk on the steps of the business in case it was rabid, Lamson said. They did not test it for rabies ahead of time, he said.

San Juan Basin Health confirmed one of the two rabid skunks was found on Oct. 20 near East Second Avenue and 11th Street.

“These are the first documented cases of skunks known to be infected with rabies in the southwestern area of Colorado in over 15 years,” said Claire Ninde, spokeswoman for the health department in an email. “However, regular ongoing surveillance of skunks does not occur.”

In recent years, the number of skunks with rabies has rapidly increased, and they are now the main carriers of the disease in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

This year, 150 animals have been found carrying the disease in the state, and 79 of them were skunks, the news release said. Skunk variant rabies is prevalent throughout the eastern half of Colorado, said Jennifer House, a state public health veterinarian.

Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of mammals. It is spread mainly through animal bites.

Animals carrying rabies tend to be either more aggressive or more tame than usual.

If anyone sees wildlife acting unusual, they are encouraged to call San Juan Basin Public Health at 247-5702 or La Plata County Animal Protection at 385-2900.

Data on rabies cases can be found on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

To prevent the spread of rabies

Never touch or feed wild or stray animals.
Vaccinate your pets.
Leash your dog while walking or hiking. Protect dogs and wildlife by keeping your pet on a leash while walking or hiking.
Keep cats and other pets inside at night. Keep dogs in a fenced yard or on leash during the day while outside.
Call your veterinarian promptly if you believe your pet has been exposed to a wild animal.
Vaccinate pastured animals annually.
Bat-proof your home. Information is available at www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management

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