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Rabid Skunk Found In Hope

By Staff, 02/10/17 4:19 PM

HOPE – A skunk found walking near a road in Hope during the day has been confirmed rabid by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). This skunk was not behaving normally because it was out during the day. It also wasn’t walking properly and appeared sick-looking. This rabid skunk was found near a park, and less than a mile from a Hope Public School. Children should be reminded not to touch wild animals and to stay away from stray pets.

Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord and is a fatal disease. It is most often seen in Arkansas in skunks and bats. Cats, dogs, ferrets and livestock can also develop rabies, especially if they are not vaccinated. The rabies virus lives in the saliva (spit) and nervous tissues of infected animals and is spread when they bite or scratch. The virus also may be spread if saliva from an infected animal touches broken skin, open wounds or the lining of the mouth, eyes or nose.

The first sign of rabies in an animal is usually a change in behavior. Rabid animals may attack people or other animals for no reason, or they may lose their fear of people and seem unnaturally friendly. Staggering, convulsions, chocking, frothing at the mouth and paralysis are often present. Skunks may be seen out in daylight, which is an unusual behavior for them, or they may get into a dog pen or under a house. Many animals have a marked change in voice pitch, such as a muted or off-key tone. An animal usually does within one week of demonstrating signs of rabies. Not all rabid animals act in these ways, however, so you should avoid all wild animals – especially skunks, bats, and stray cats and dogs.

All dogs and cats in Arkansas are required to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. This not only protects the animal, but also acts as a barrier between the wildlife exposures of rabies and people, as pets are more likely to be exposed to a rabid skunk directly than are humans.

Anyone who thinks they have become exposed to an animal with rabies should wash any wounds thoroughly with soap and water immediately and report the incident. Contact a physician and county health unit immediately and report the incident. The animal in question should be captured, if possible, without damaging its head or risking further exposure.

What can you do to prevent rabies?

  • Be sure your dogs, cats and ferrets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations
  • Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals
  • ┬áKeep family pets indoors at night
  • Bat-proof your home or summer camp in the fall or winter (the majority of human rabies are caused by bat bites)
  • Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if any animal bites them
  • Teach children to avoid wildlife, strays and all other animals they do not know well

Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to the Hempstead County local Health Unit. Do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies. Depending on the species, an animal can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment.

For more information, call Hope Animal Control at 870-722-2545, the Hempstead County Heath Unit at 479-521-8181 or Susan Weinstein, DVM, State Public Health Veterinarian at 501-280-4136.

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