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Raising cases of skunk rabies in southern Indiana

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Following the discovery of skunk rabies in two southern Indiana counties, the Indiana Department of Health is advising citizens to vaccinate their pets against rabies and to stay a safe distance from wildlife.

Although northern Kentucky is often home to skunk rabies infections, Indiana has reported its first cases since 2004. There are no suspected human infections.

“When rabies is spreading among skunks, it can increase the risk for both animals and people,” said Indiana State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Jen Brown. “Now is the time to make sure that your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations.”

Residents can reduce the risk of rabies in people and animals by doing the following:

By taking the following actions, residents can lower the danger of rabies in both humans and animals:

• Vaccinate dogs, cats and ferrets for rabies
• Keep cats and ferrets indoors and dogs on a leash or under direct supervision
• Leave stray animals and wildlife alone
• Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of stray animals in the community
• Contact animal control or law enforcement to remove stray animals from your neighborhood

The counties of Clark and Washington were home to the rabid skunks. To ascertain whether other counties in southern Indiana are impacted, the Indiana Department of Health is collaborating with partners. Residents of Indiana can assist by reporting dead or sick skunks to the Fish & Wildlife Health Program Division of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife. Even skunks that seem healthy should not be approached or touched by members of the public. The same goes for other wild animals.

The primary way that an infected animal can transfer the virus that causes rabies is through its saliva. Skunk spray, blood, urine, or feces do not carry the virus. The virus usually infects wild animals in the United States, including foxes, skunks, raccoons, and bats, but it can also infect pets and cattle that have not had a vaccination. Although skunk rabies has just recently been found in south-central Indiana, the disease has long been known to infect bats in the state.

Not all animals can be diagnosed with rabies just by appearance. Testing is the only surefire way to find out. Rabies-stricken animals often behave strangely; some may be violent and attempt to bite humans or other animals, while others may appear timid or lifeless. While this is referred to as “foaming at the mouth,” some rabid animals do not usually drool excessively.

People who contract rabies nearly never survive if they do not receive treatment, although this can be avoided with quick action following a bite. If you suspect you may have contracted rabies, get in touch with your doctor right away. Get in touch with your veterinarian right once if you think a pet or livestock animal has come into contact with rabies.

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