Rabies case unusually high in state, KDHE reports

An unusually high number of rabid animals have been diagnosed in Kansas this year.

Since the beginning of 2003, 21 cases have been reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from the Kansas State University Rabies Diagnostic Laboratory.

The rabid animals included 16 skunks, three cows, one horse, and one dog. Typically in January, five to six animals are reported with rabies to KDHE.

In 2002, animal cases increased to 10 during January. Wild animals tend to be out more in warmer weather, so the temperatures earlier this winter may explain the latest increase in cases.

Several people potentially have been exposed to rabies from these animal cases. But everyone at risk has begun appropriate treatment, and no humans have been diagnosed with the disease.

The risk for human exposure in Kansas is real, but preventable.

Animal rabies is endemic in Kansas and skunks are the animal most likely to have the disease. Prevention of human rabies depends on maintaining an adequate buffer zone of vaccinated domestic animals, eliminating human exposures to stray and wild animals, and providing exposed persons with prompt post-exposure rabies treatment. The last human case of rabies in Kansas was 1968.

KDHE reminds people who own pets and livestock to make sure their animals receive rabies vaccination from a veterinarian. A vaccine is available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle, and sheep. All mammals are susceptible to the virus and it is usually transmitted from the bite of an infected animal.

In 2002, 154 animals tested positive for rabies in Kansas.

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