The Arkansas Department of Health says three skunks from Pulaski County have tested positive for rabies so far this year. All of the animals were from the northwest part of the county, around Maumelle.
According to Susan Weinstein, a state public health veterinarian, any skunk seen out during the day is very likely to be rabid and should be avoided. Weinstein says people should also report the animal to local authorities. "Once we know we have active rabies in a particular area, we want the public to beware and to protect their dogs, cats, horses and livestock with rabies vaccinations," Weinstein said.
Weinstein says the rabid animals found in Pulaski County should serve as a reminder to all pet owners to make sure they're current on any vaccinations.
Changes in Arkansas law in 2010 allow for vaccination for rabies once every three years for dogs and cats with the appropriate vaccine.
All dogs and cats in Arkansas are required by state law to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. This protects the animal, and acts as a barrier between the wildlife exposures of rabies and people since pets are more likely to be exposed to a rabid skunk directly than people. Any rabies vaccine given by an owner with an over-the-counter product cannot be counted as vaccinated as there is no assurance it was stored or given properly. There is also usually no documentation of a date when the vaccine was given.
So far in 2013, the state has had 61 rabid animals (58 skunks, two dogs and one cow) test positive for rabies. Most years, the Public Health Lab tests around 1,000 animals for rabies and averages 50 positive cases.
The state health department says to report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to the nearest local health unit. Do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies. Depending on the species, an animal can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment. For more information, call the Pulaski County Health Units at: Jacksonville, 501-982-7477; North Little Rock, 501-791-8551; Pulaski Central, 501-280-3100; SW Little Rock, 501-565-931, OR Susan Weinstein, DVM, state public health veterinarian, at (501) 280-4136