(Gillette, Wyo.) Half way through 2018, there have already been numerous cases of rabies reported in wildlife around the state, mostly in skunks and bats. There’s also been two confirmed cases in domestic animals, one horse and one cow, in Laramie County that were the result of wildlife exposure.
Rabies is a viral disease found in warm-blooded animals that is spread through the saliva of infected animals and can also be transmitted to humans.
“It’s probably more cases reported this early in the year, than we’ve had in quite a long time,” said State Veterinarian Jim Logan. “When a disease like this gets into the wildlife population that isn’t going to be vaccinated and no one really has any particular control over, then the disease can spread widely and rapidly as well.”
Rabies Management in Wyoming is a cooperative effort among several agencies including the Wyoming Livestock Board, State Veterinary Lab, and the Department of Health.
In 2017, 636 animals were tested for rabies at the state lab. Of those tested, only 27 skunks and 12 bats tested positive for rabies. There were no positive rabies tests recorded in Campbell and Crook Counties last year. However, there was one bat in Weston County and one skunk in Johnson County that tested positive for the disease.
Wyoming State Veterinary Lab Director Dr. Will Laegreid said people request rabies testing for all sorts of reasons.
“We test a lot of animals and it’s a relatively small percentage that are positive,” said Dr. Laegreid, “I’d rather test a whole bunch of negatives, than miss a positive and have someone develop rabies.”
If left untreated, rabies is almost always fatal in human cases.
Vaccination can prevent rabies in domestic species, such as dogs and cats, however, vaccinating an animal that has already been infected with the disease does not kill the infection or prevent the spread of rabies.
Logan said the largest number of rabies cases in Wyoming are found in Laramie and Sheridan Counties.
“Obviously this thing is getting kind of out of hand and it could continue to worsen if there isn’t something done to control the populations of the vectors,” continued Logan.
It’s a topic he plans to bring up tomorrow in front of the interim Agriculture, State and Public Lands, and Water Resources Committee.
“It would be very helpful to have some more clarifying statutes on the books that actually granted some authority to somebody to actually do something about it,” said Logan.
There have been successful vaccination programs in areas in the east where rabid raccoons were an issue. Vaccine bates were dropped from planes in areas with a high number of positive cases.
According to the CDC, animals with rabies may display uncharacteristic behavior such as nocturnal animals being active during the day. The may be hostile or try to bite. Rabies also cause an animal to produce more saliva, which is why animals sometimes appear to be foaming at the mouth. Staggering and irregular movements are also a sign.
If an animal is acting strangely, contact animal control.