Rabid skunks have pets owners in Grayson County on alert - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Rabid skunks have pets owners in Grayson County on alert


GRAYSON COUNTY -- A warning in Grayson County for people and their pets.

Today, the health department issued an alert about an unusually high number of rabies cases.

Amanda Ortez with the Grayson County Health Department says there have been nine cases reported so far this year.

"Eight skunks and one dog," Ortez said. "That's in comparison to 10 for the entire year of 2013."

Ortez says nine people have also been exposed to infected animals.

The Texas Department of Health tracks laboratory-confirmed rabies cases on a map on its website. The map shows rabid skunks outnumber any other species in north Texas.

Ortez says most of the cases in our area are in the western half of Grayson County with a concentration near the Whitesboro and Sadler areas.

"Now that I know that many people have been infected, it alerts me," Sadler resident Sherry Bullard said.

The health department says people can be exposed if an infected animal bites them, scratches them breaking the surface of the skin or through direct exposure to the anima's saliva.

If you are exposed to a rabid animal, Ortez says you need to seek treatment immediately.

As for your pets, Dr. David Tidwell with Texoma Veterinary Hospital says vaccinating them is the best defense against rabies. A dose costs about $20.

While the humans exposed to the disease were treated before it spread, Dr. Tidwell says pets often have to be put down.

"We always try to catch it before that stage. That's the reason we vaccinate animals and keep animals vaccinated, to prevent infections and that way we don't have to worry about them getting that fatal, serious disease," Dr. Tidwell said.

Pet owners are also being urged to keep their animals from roaming at large and the health department is encouraging everyone to avoid contact with them altogether.

Dr. Tidwell says symptoms for animals include anything from lethargy to aggressiveness.

For humans, symptoms of rabies are similar to the flu.

The CDC says once clinical signs of rabies appear in humans, the disease is almost always fatal.


Precautions to Avoid Rabies Exposure

The following information has been gathered from the Texas Department of State and Health Services (DSHS), and the Grayson County Health Department's Animal Control Division, and Infectious Disease Control Division have produced this advisory.

The Grayson County Health Department is urging precautions to reduce the risk of contracting rabies.  There has been a higher than usual number of animal rabies cases in Grayson County, Texas this year, particularly in the cities of Sadler and Whitesboro. Protect yourself by avoiding contact with wild animals and animals acting strangely, and by vaccinating your family pets.

The Grayson County area has seen a significant increase in animal rabies cases, particularly in skunks.  As of April 16, 2014, Grayson County has had eight (8) skunks, and one (1) dog test positive for the rabies virus.  Two of the nine cases involved direct human exposure which included a total of nine (9) individuals.  Those individuals whom were potentially exposed to the rabies virus sought the series of post-exposure rabies vaccinations.  In comparison to the nine (9) positive rabies cases thus far in 2014, there were a total of ten (10) positive cases identified in all of 2013.

Bats and skunks are the most common animals found to have rabies in Texas. People can be exposed to rabies by an animal bite or scratch that breaks the skin or if an open wound comes in direct contact with an infected animal's saliva. People also can be exposed if the saliva from a rabid animal gets in a person's eyes, nose, or mouth.

The most effective ways to prevent exposure to rabies are:

- Avoid feeding, touching or adopting wild animals, such as bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes,
- Report suspicious animals to local animal control,
- Vaccinate your family pets or livestock against rabies,

- Do not allow your domestic pets to roam at large,

- If you observe a skunk out during the day time contact

  the Grayson County Health Department's Animal Control Division at 903-465-2878 ext. 240, or the GCHD 

  Emergency Phone at 903-821-5027 
- If you are bitten, or if saliva from a suspected rabid animal comes in
contact with your eyes, nose, mouth or a wound, wash the exposure site and seek medical attention immediately,

- Report any animal bite to the Sheriff's Office or Grayson County Animal Control Division.

Rabies is almost always fatal in humans once symptoms occur. However, a series of post-exposure injections can be administered to prevent the development of rabies.