Caution urged with rabid animalsRecent case in Winner reflects proper procedure.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
WINNER — A Winner resident took exactly the correct precautions and actions after discovering a rabid skunk inside city limits recently.
Dr. Tom Covey, a veterinarian at Animal Clinic Ltd. in Winner, said the resident called the police department first but then called the clinic because the resident’s dog had been exposed to the rabid animal.
“Our procedure, when a skunk fits the criteria in the daylight, is to send in the head for testing,” Covey said. “It came back positive.”
Although the dog was exposed to the rabid animal, Covey described the dog as “picture perfect” as it’s always been current on vaccinations and was just revaccinated in January.
The resident shot the rabid skunk in the body and delivered the carcass to Animal Clinic, which then removed the head and sent it to the South Dakota Public Health Laboratory.
Most people will shoot a rabid animal in the body to preserve the head, but Covey said it’s always good to remind the public of that.
“If it’s shot in the head, we can’t have the animal tested,” Covey said.
Rabid skunks will display strange behavior, like being out in the daylight and acting unafraid of people by not running away. The same strange behavior is present in rabid raccoons, he said.
People should take caution when dealing with live or dead rabid animals.
“Contact the proper authorities right away if you suspect an animal is rabid,” Covey said. Keep human contact at a minimum by wearing gloves. “Rabies in people is fatal,” he said. He added that it’s important to keep dogs, cats and other domestic animals vaccinated and away from rabid animals. The department confirmed 40 cases of rabies in 2011, compared to 32 cases in 2010, according to a state Department of Health news release.
In 2011, 63 counties sent in animals for testing and the state health lab confirmed positive cases from 23 counties. Of the 40 cases, 20 of the animals were skunks, six were bats and two were raccoons. Domestic animals, including a horse, cats, cattle and dogs were also found to be rabid last year.
“We can’t emphasize enough how important it is for people to vaccinate their pets for rabies,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist, in a news release.
“Skunks are the main reservoir for rabies in South Dakota and the risk of skunks exposing pets is always a possibility.”