The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is warning that skunk rabies is widespread in eastern Colorado, and a cat and raccoon have already been infected in Cheyenne County.
The last time a rabid raccoon was reported in Colorado was 1963. The last time a cat was reported with the disease was 1985.
State officials assume both the raccoon and the cat were infected by a rabid skunk.
At least seven rabid skunks have been involved in attacks on domesticated dogs and cats, said Mark Salley with the Department of a Public Health and Environment. The infected raccoon was killed following an attack.
Last year, the state confirmed reports of rabid skunks and a coyote in eastern Colorado, so this year, the Department of Public Health and Environment began monitoring certain areas.
So far this year, 38 skunks were tested. Eleven of them, or 29 percent, tested positive for rabies. This year, skunk rabies has been reported in the following counties: Arapahoe, Baca, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Kit Carson and Yuma.
No rabid skunks have been reported in Front Range cities, but the department will continue to monitor the situation, Salley said.
Rabies is a potentially deadly viral disease that affects the nervous system. John Pape, an epidemiologist with the department, reminds people to vaccinate their pets. It's the simplest and most effective way to prevent the disease, he said.
People are encouraged not to feed wild animals and not to allow pets to roam freely. Parents should also teach children to stay away from wild or dead animals.
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