Rabid skunk discovered in Flushing

FLUSHING — A rabid skunk has been identified in Flushing, becoming the first confirmed animal rabies case in Genesee County this year.

According to the Genesee County Health Department (GCHD), the skunk was discovered last week near the City of Flushing. Health officials said that human exposure to the skunk was unlikely.

The GCHD is reminding residents that wild animals become active in the spring, which means the possibility of exposure to rabies is increasing. GCHD officials are advising the public, especially children, to avoid contact with wild, stray or dead animals to protect themselves against rabies.

Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of mammals, including humans. A person may contract rabies through a bite, scratch or saliva from an infected animal.

A potential rabies exposure should never be taken lightly. Treatment is available and effective for rabies if medical attention is received shortly after contact. However, rabies is fatal if left untreated.

The GCHD is recommending that all pet owners have their animals vaccinated with the rabies vaccine, which is essential for promoting animal and human health. Whether animals are kept indoors or outdoors, it is important to make sure they are all protected against rabies, as exposure may occur even in the most unlikely situations. The disease can affect a wide variety of domestic animals, including dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep.

How to prevent the spread and protect yourself from rabies:

–Keep vaccinations up to date for all dogs, cats, ferrets and other animals you own. A licensed veterinarian should give the vaccines, and the appropriate boosters can be discussed based on the guidelines.

–Seek immediate veterinary assistance for your pet if it is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.

–If you or a family member is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, immediately wash the wound with soap and hot water. Contact your physician and state or local health department for further guidance regarding potential rabies exposure to evaluate the need for rabies post-exposure vaccination.

–Do not handle stray, wild or dead animals. Teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.

–Never adopt wild animals, bring them into your home or try to nurse sick, wild animals.

–Keep pets indoors, supervise when outside and always use a leash when walking to limit their exposure to wild animals that may be rabid.

For removal of nuisance animals, please contact a permitted contactor with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), preferably one with both liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. Ensure that the contractor is permitted for the specific animal you wish to be removed.

A list of wildlife damage and nuisance animal control contractors in your area can be found here: www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79136_79608_83071-137162–,00.html.

For questions regarding domestic animals such as dogs or cats, please contact Genesee County Animal Control at 810-732-1660. For questions regarding human health, contact GCHD at 810-257-1017. — B.G.