A rabid horse in El Paso County, Colo., has been euthanized and the County Department of Health and Environment is underscoring the critical importance of vaccinating pets and livestock and avoiding wild animals.
"Rabies infection in horses is rare," said Public Health Director Kandi Buckland, RN, MPA. "We anticipate that the infection was caused by skunk rabies, which greatly concerns us because it would indicate that rabies is not only spreading in the county, but also crossing animal species and increasing the risk to people."
Rabies was confirmed through lab tests after the horse was euthanized Friday. Public health experts believe that the horse was exposed to a skunk on its home property in Black Forest area.
Colorado has not recorded a horse with rabies in at least 25 years, said officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
"It is critically important for people to vaccinate their pets and their livestock against rabies and to avoid contact with wild mammals," Buckland said. "Prevention is key because rabies is a fatal disease once symptoms begin."
In addition to the horse, El Paso County has recorded six confirmed cases of rabies in skunks this year, part of a statewide spread of rabies. Prior to this summer, the last time a rabid skunk was reported in El Paso County was 1970.
The infected skunks have so far been found in northern and eastern El Paso County.
"At this point, we are worried that more areas throughout El Paso County will be affected by skunk rabies," Buckland said.
Vaccination can successfully protect your pet and livestock from rabies infection should an exposure occur.
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.