For Immediate Release
February 19, 2009
Public Information Officer
Montana Department ofLivestock
Sweet Grass County Quarantined for Rabies
Sweet Grass County has been placed under a 60-day quarantine for rabies, effective February 13, 2009, after a skunk that tested positive for the disease was killed by two pet dogs.
The dogs that killed the skunk were properly vaccinated, and have little risk of developing the disease. Per standard protocol, both dogs were revaccinated and will be confined and observed for 45 days.
A quarantine order was originally issued for Stillwater County, but was updated to include Sweet Grass County because of the incident's proximity to the Stillwater-Sweet Grass county line.
Rabies is a deadly but preventable viral disease that causes swelling of the brain in mammals, including humans. It is spread through bites or scratches from an infected animal. Rabies is almost always fatal unless treated before symptoms appear, but remains a rare event in humans.
The state currently has five active rabies quarantines: Sweet Grass, Dawson (effective January 28), Yellowstone (effective February 3), Stillwater (effective February 11) and Lewis & Clark (effective February 13) counties.
Counties are quarantined when rabies is confirmed in a terrestrial animal such as a dog, cat, skunk or fox. All unvaccinated dogs, cats and ferrets in quarantined counties must be vaccinated at least two weeks prior to any travel outside the quarantined county.
Nationally, most reported rabies cases occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. In Montana, bats (11) and skunks (2) accounted for 13 of the 14 cases reported in 2008. Rabies causes 1-2 deaths per year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and globally accounts for more than 55,000 human deaths a year, mostly in Asia and Africa.
Rabies is highly preventable in domestic companion animals via an inexpensive vaccine that is required by law for dogs, cats and ferrets.
"Vaccination is the easiest solution to protect both human and animal health," said Dr. Tahnee Szymanski, a veterinarian for the Montana Department of Livestock.
Szymanski encouraged pet owners to keep their animals up to date on vaccinations, which must be administered every 1-3 years according to municipal or county ordinance. Pet owners can check with their veterinarian to determine local vaccination requirements.
Rabies is a mandatory reportable disease in Montana, and all suspected cases must be immediately reported to the State Veterinarian at 406/444-2043.
Abnormal behavior is the most consistent sign of rabies. Rabies can take on two forms in animals – dumb or furious. With the dumb form, animals become shy or hide, and are often unapproachable. They may also be sluggish and act depressed or confused. With the furious form, animals are excitable, irritable and act aggressively. These animals may attack suddenly when approached. Other signs of rabies include drooling; inability to eat, drink or swallow; frothing at the mouth; and staggering, weakness, convulsions and paralysis. Animals will normally become comatose prior to death.
Avoiding animals and wildlife that exhibit unusual behavior protects people from the risk of rabies exposure.
Anyone who is bitten or scratched by an animal should thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention for the wound. Animal bites should be reported to the county health department (or County Sheriff's office after hours) as soon as possible.
For additional information on rabies, please consult your local public health department or see:
- Montana Department of Livestock, http://liv.mt.gov/liv/ah/diseases/rabies/general.asp
- Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, http://cdepi.hhs.mt.gov
- USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/oral_rabies/
- Centers for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/