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Rabies cases up in Kansas, Colorado
Veterinary officials urge awareness about the disease to keep pets safe.
Veterinary officials in Kansas and Colorado are urging pet owners to make sure their pets are current on their rabies vaccinations after seeing an increase in positive cases through the first part of 2015. There is no cure for rabies after symptoms begin to show and it is nearly always fatal. Vaccination is one of the only preventive measures pet owners can take.
Rolan Davis, MS, a diagnostician with the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDL) at Kansas State University, says there have been 28 positive cases of rabies in Kansas from January to March, compared with 10 in the same time period in 2014, according to a university release. The total number of cases submitted to the KSVDL rabies lab increased from 208 in 2014 to 248 in 2015, about a 20 percent increase for the first quarter of the year, though the number of positive cases grew at a higher rate.
Twenty-three of the positive cases involved skunks, three were cats, one was a cow and one was a fox. Davis says that while the increase in positive tests in skunks seems to be the concern currently, wild bats are also a common carrier of the virus, though they carry a different strain. The number of positive tests in that species will spike from time to time, just as it is doing for skunks now, according to the release.
"We are always cautious when reporting increased positive results because we don't want to 'cry wolf,'" says Mike Moore, DVM, project manager of the KSDVL, in the release. "But one quarter into the year, we have thus far seen nearly three times more positives."
Health department officials in the Denver, Colorado, area have also seen an increase in rabid skunk cases, according to a release from the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Tri-County Health Department. From January 1 to April 17, six cases of rabies have been confirmed in skunks in Arapahoe, Adams and Elbert counties, with five of the cases confirmed since March 4.
“These rabid skunks confirm that rabies is present in the eastern regions of these counties. Rabies can spread from skunks to other mammals and we are concerned about the increase in skunk activity this time of year,” says John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, executive director of Tri-County Health Department, in the release.