Okla. City, OK (May 14, 2020) - The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is seeing an increase in rabies cases in Choctaw County over past years with skunks as the primary culprit.
“Oklahoma is seeing more cases of rabies in the state this year than previous years,” said State Public Health Veterinarian LeMac’ Morris. “With more sightings of skunks on the road and in communities, this is the perfect time to remind pet owners about the importance of vaccinating family pets, and even livestock.”
Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. In addition, rabies can also be contracted when saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with breaks in the skin or if a person came in contact with neural (brain) tissue.
Skunks and bats are typically Oklahoma’s wildlife that are major reservoirs (carriers) of rabies with skunks having a high probability of interacting with other animals, such as cats, dogs or livestock, that could possibly expose humans. Human exposures to rabies occurs from contact with unvaccinated pets or livestock that have contracted the disease from a rabid, wild animal.
Rabies vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, sheep, cattle and horses. Oklahoma requires a veterinarian to vaccinate dogs, cats and ferrets against rabies by the time the animal is 4 months of age, but the vaccines can be safely given at 3 months of age. Animals then need to receive a rabies vaccination at regular intervals thereafter.
“If you suspect your pet or any animal has been exposed to a rabid animal, you need to immediately contact your local veterinarian or animal control facility,” stated Morris.
Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive or may act very tame. They may also exhibit the classic sign of foaming at the mouth or drooling, but not always. Animals may stagger showing clinical signs similar to canine distemper making it difficult to differentiate between the two diseases. Animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.
Animal rabies vaccines are very effective in protecting pets and livestock from this deadly disease, and it is important to keep your pets current on their rabies vaccine to protect both animals and humans.
For an evaluation of rabies risk or guidance on a suspected rabies case, please contact the OSDH Acute Disease Service at (405) 271-4060, 24 hours a day.