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Uptick in rabies cases reported
Health Department urges vigilance
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The Barton County Health Department is reporting an increase in the number of skunks and other animals testing positive for rabies.

The Barton County Health Department is seeing an upward swing in animals being tested positive for rabies, Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider said.  Her office always as at least one open rabies case, but now there are seven active investigations.

“We just urge caution,” she said. “Just be aware of any animals you don’t normally see out in the daylight active during the day.”

Schneider said we live in an area where rabid skunks are common. “We’ve just seen a lot more skunks and other animals testing positive.”

As for why, she’s not sure. Health officials believe rabies cases ebb and flow in seven-year cycles, so perhaps were are entering a peak time. 

“We strongly recommend insuring that your animals are current on their rabies vaccine status, which includes the booster vaccines that are necessary to bring an animal to a ‘current’ status,” she said.  

With the increase in rabid animals, the risk of domesticated animals becoming exposed to the rabies virus will increase as well.  Remember too, that if an infected animal licks its paws and then scratches a human, the potential for exposure is present.

“All animal bites should be reported to 911 and the appropriate parties will be notified,” Schneider said. “Please do not attempt to discard the affected animal without proper protective equipment or with the guidance of Animal Control officers.”

If an exposure is of medical concern, the affected person should go to their nearest emergency department for treatment and initiation of post-exposure prophylaxis, if necessary, she said. 

An exposure is not always a puncture wound. An infected animals saliva contains the rabies virus and can be spread to open wounds or through mucous membranes. 

“When in doubt of a possible exposure, it is better safe to notify the Barton County Health Department to ensure all questions are answered rather than assume the situation is safe when it is not,” she said. “Rabies is fatal.

All of these cases are investigated by the Barton County Health Department with consultation provided by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. 

For more information, contact the Health Department at 620-793-1902.

Facts about rabies

What is rabies?

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system caused by a virus. It results from an exposure to the saliva of an animal infected with rabies. Rabies is a fatal disease.

Who gets rabies?

In the United States, rabies among humans is rare although anyone can get it after an exposure to a rabid animal. It is spread when the virus in an animal’s saliva, or other infectious body fluid, enters an open cut, wound, mouth, or eyes.

What is an exposure to Rabies?

There are two types of exposures, a bite and non-bite. A bite is any puncture of the skin by teeth. A non-bite exposure occurs when saliva, brain tissue, or spinal fluid from an animal with rabies enters any scratch, abrasion, open wound, eyes, or mouth. The petting of a rabid animal is not considered an exposure.

What animals get rabies?

Only mammals are infected with rabies, however, some mammals are more likely to be infected with rabies than others. For example, skunks, raccoons, bats, foxes and coyotes are more likely to be infected. Rodents, rabbits, and hares almost never get rabies.

How can you tell if an animal is rabid?

Although some animals with rabies look and act normal most develop either the furious or dumb form of the disease. “Furious rabies” is when the infected animal is easily excited or angered. “Dumb rabies” is when the infected animal appears paralyzed or dazed. The only sure way to tell if an animal has rabies is to kill it and test the brain for the rabies virus.

How long can animals spread rabies?

Cats and dogs can spread rabies for 3-5 days before they become ill and during their illness. The amount of time varies for other animals.

What should you do if you are exposed to a rabid animal?

Immediately wash all bite wounds and scratches thoroughly with soap and water.  See a doctor as soon as possible. After an exposure to a proven or suspected rabid animal, rabies shots must be started.

How can rabies be prevented?

Vaccination of dogs and cats against rabies is the best way to reduce human exposure. Avoid contact with wild animals and do not keep wild animals as pets.  Control of stray animals can decrease both animal and human exposures to rabies. Animals which have contact with an animal that may have rabies should be reported to the local animal control agency.

Where can you get more information?

• Your Local Health Department

• Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Epidemiologic Services Section at 877-427-7317


• Your doctor, nurse, or local health center