Sheep close up

File photo. Photo Credit: tracielouise (iStock).

The third case of rabies in domestic livestock was recently confirmed in El Paso County after a 3-month-old ram with neurologic symptoms tested positive for the disease.

According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the rabid "ram lamb" marks the state's third official case of rabies in domestic livestock for 2020. Other cases confirmed this year include a bull in Pueblo county and a goat in Yuma county.

Rabies is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and is almost always fatal. It transmitted most often through the bite of an infected animal to another animal or person, passing through saliva.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture suggests the following preventative steps for protecting pets and livestock against rabies.

  • Be aware of skunks out during the day. This is abnormal behavior and these animals should be avoided.
  • Be aware of areas that can be suitable habitat for skunks such as dark holes, under buildings, and under equipment.
  • Do not feed wild animals or allow your pets around them. Even baby raccoons and skunks can be rabid and transmit the virus. Be sure to teach children to stay away from wild animals. Avoid leaving pet food outside as that may attract a wild animal.
  • Contact your veterinarian right away, if any of your animals are bitten or scratched by any wild animal, particularly skunks, bats, foxes or raccoons.
  • If your animals exhibit any neurologic or dramatic behavioral changes, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Isolate and avoid contact with these animals if possible.
  • If you have been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, contact your physician and local health department right away.
  • If you must remove a dead skunk on your property, wear rubber gloves or lift the carcass with a shovel or other tool, and double-bag it for the trash. Do not directly touch the skunk with bare hands.

So far this year, 59 animals tested positive for rabies in Colorado. Larimer County has the highest number of positive cases with 16 cases so far this year, with the majority of those cases occurring in bats and skunks. El Paso County is the second-highest in the state with 10 positive cases, five of which were bats and four skunks. 

For more on rabies, please visit colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/rabies.

Breanna Sneeringer writes about news, adventure, and more for OutThere Colorado as a Digital Content Producer. She is an avid adventure seeker and wildflower enthusiast. Breanna joined OutThere Colorado in September 2018.

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