Shultz, Thomas

Skunk Tests Positive for Rabies in Powder River County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 8, 2021


CONTACT:
Dr. Anna Forseth, MT Dept. of Livestock, (406) 444-2939, anna.forseth@mt.gov

Dr. Tahnee Szymanski, MT Dept. of Livestock, (406) 444-5214, tszymanski@mt.gov

 

Skunk Tests Positive for Rabies in Powder River County

Helena, Mont. –  On Thursday, June 3ʳᵈ, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL)  received 
confirmation of a second terrestrial (non-bat) rabies case in the state in 2021. A rabies- infected 
skunk was captured in Powder River County. One dog was exposed to the rabid skunk and is being 
managed for exposure to rabies.

In response to the rabies diagnosis, MDOL has issued a 60-day county quarantine for dogs, cats and 
ferrets in Powder River County that are not currently vaccinated for rabies (MCA Title 81, Chapters 
2 and 20). The quarantine is in effect from Thursday, June 3ʳᵈ, to Monday, August 2ⁿᵈ. Animals 
past-due for a rabies booster, animals that are not 28 days past their first rabies vaccine, and 
animals that have never been vaccinated are subject to the quarantine. The purpose of the 
quarantine is to reduce the risk of further disease spread in case the rabid skunk had contact with 
other animals in the county.

Rabies is a fatal viral disease that is spread through the saliva of an infected animal. The virus 
can infect any mammal, including people. However, it is virtually 100% preventable in domestic 
animals through the administration of the rabies vaccine.

“Rabies vaccines not only protect the health of an individual animal, they also protect the health 
of animal owners and other animals,” says Dr. Anna Forseth with the Department of Livestock. 
“Vaccination is a low-cost, safe, and effective tool that we encourage all pet owners
to pursue.”

Rabies vaccines are available for dogs, cats, and ferrets, and most livestock species. Livestock 
owners of animals of substantial financial value or animals that have frequent contact with the 
public should consider vaccinating their animals. Non-vaccinated animals that are exposed to rabid 
or suspected rabid animals may be subject to long-term quarantine, an expensive and labor-intensive 
process.

The most common animals infected with rabies in Montana are bats, but cases involving terrestrial 
species do occur. The last documented cases of terrestrial (non-bat) rabies in Powder River County 
was in 2013. Contact between a pet and a wild animal, including skunks and bats, should be reported 
to a local veterinarian or the MDOL to ensure potential rabies exposures are assessed for risk and 
managed accordingly.

To protect yourself, your family, and pets against rabies:
•    Keep pets currently vaccinated for rabies.
•    Keep garbage in tight containers to avoid attracting animals.
•    Stay away from domestic animals that act aggressive and wild animals that seem 
unafraid.
•    Avoid night animals, like raccoons, that are active during the day.
•    Contact your local animal control agency if you see an animal behaving suspiciously.
If you or someone you know is bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water, 
consult a doctor right away, and call your local public health department to report the bite.

The mission of the Montana Department of Livestock is to control and eradicate animal diseases, 
prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and to protect the livestock industry from 
theft and predatory animals. For more information on the MDOL, visit
www.liv.mt.gov.

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