Officials: SD animal rabies cases down in 2013
By Dirk Lammers
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The number of animal rabies cases in South Dakota dropped in 2013 after two consecutive years of increases, state health officials said Thursday.
South Dakota had 28 cases of animal rabies in 2013, down from 60 cases in 2012 and 40 in 2011, said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health.
The numbers tend to be cyclical, but they're low in a historical context because veterinarians and animal owners have been proactive with vaccinations, state public health veterinarian Russ Daly said.
"If you look historically compared with 20, 30 years ago, we do have a lot fewer cases of rabies, but I do think it's probably because of vaccinations," Daly said. "But as long as we have skunks around, we're going to have rabies around so we always have to keep it in the back of our minds."
South Dakota hasn't had a human rabies case since 1970.
The detections in 20 South Dakota counties in 2013 included 16 skunks and five bats, as well as seven domestic animals — five cattle, one dog, one cat but no horses.
"Most years have a horse or two diagnosed with rabies," Daly said.
Infected wild animals can pass rabies to pets or livestock, which can then expose humans. A non-vaccinated pet bitten by a rabid animal will likely have to be put to sleep, Daly said.
The Department of Health recommends vaccinations for pets, as well as horses or show animals that have frequent contact with people.
"Not because they're at any more risk for getting it, but there's more possibility for human contact with those animals," Daly said.
The department advises people not to handle, adopt or attempt to feed wild animals, and especially avoid any animal that behaves strangely and immediately report it to a local veterinarian, animal control or law enforcement office. Officials also advise against direct contact with dead, sick or injured animals and suggest using heavy gloves and protective eyewear to prevent exposure to saliva. Bats should never be handled.