Skunk in Mentor tests positive for rabies after run-in with dogs

A skunk discovered in Lake County has tested positive for rabies after having a run-in with a couple neighborhood pets – and it's the second skunk with rabies in the area this year.

According to the Lake County General Health District, the skunk had an encounter with two unvaccinated dogs earlier this month in the northwest part of Mentor – north of Lakeshore Boulevard and west of State Route 306.

The LCGHD said the dogs will remain in a strict 6-month quarantine period due to the incident.

This is the second skunk in Mentor that has tested positive for rabies in 2011. The LCGHD said the first was located two miles west in the northern, middle portion of the city in mid-July. That skunk was discovered through a routine "Trap, Vaccinate and Release" operation by the USDA Wildlife Services.

The LCGHD said an outbreak of rabies has been happening in Lake County since 2004, in which 136 cases of raccoon strain rabies has been confirmed. The most recent case marks the sixth in northeast Ohio so far this year.

Here are some tips about rabies from the LCGHD:

Avoid contact with wild, sick or injured animals, and animals you don't know. Any pet or human encounter with skunks, bats, raccoons, fox or coyotes should be reported to the LCGHD for evaluation of the circumstances to determine if a possible rabies exposure has occurred. In circumstances where there is any reasonable probability of exposure, if at all possible, the biting animal should be safely captured so that it can be tested for rabies. Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. "Love your own, leave other animals alone" is a good principle for children to learn.

Vaccinate your pets against rabies. Rabies vaccination of all pet cats, dogs and ferrets is mandatory in Lake County. This requirement also applies to indoor pets because, in some instances, a potentially rabid animal (especially bats) may get into the house. As a result, it is important for pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against rabies and always keep the shots up-to-date. Vaccinating pets against rabies protects the pet, as well as family members, against the threat of this fatal disease.

Call your doctor or veterinarian if you or your pets are bitten.

Your local health departments in northeast Ohio are working hard to protect you against rabies by distributing rabies vaccine for raccoons to eat, however the vaccine is not effective in skunks. A new vaccine for skunks is currently undergoing trials and it is hoped it will be available for use locally next year. There has also been a very effective trap, vaccinate, and release program that immunizes raccoons against rabies in target areas. Citizens can help by contacting the Lake County General Health District at (440) 350-2543 to report dead or sick animals and animals with odd behavior. Pet owners are also cautioned to use care when letting dogs or cats outside in the evening. Put on a light, if available, then check for skunks or other wild animals, even inside fenced-in enclosures, before allowing animals access.

For additional information on raccoon rabies, please visit:

http://www.lcghd.org/rabies.aspx
http://www.odh.ohio.gov/odhPrograms/dis/zoonoses/rabies/rab1.aspx
http://www.cdc.gov/rabies

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