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Tuolumne County Seeing Spike In Rabies Cases

Sonora, CA — Tuolumne County Animal Control has tested six skunks as being positive for rabies this year, compared to just one all of last year.

Two of the skunks were located in Jamestown, and the others were in Columbia, Chinese Camp, Tuttletown and Tuolumne. The reason for the recent spike remains unknown. Anytime a domestic animal, livestock, or even a human, comes into contact with wildlife, Tuolumne County Animal Control requests to be notified.

The county’s Registered Veterinary Technician, Christine Whitcomb, says, “Rabies is a viral disease of the brain and spinal cord. The disease is fatal in humans and other warm-blooded animals if not treated.”

She adds, “Rabies is a reportable communicable disease that the California Department of Health Services monitors. Investigation, enforcement, and the quarantine of animals suspected of possibly being exposed to rabies, and animals that have bitten, scratched, or otherwise possibly exposed a human to rabies…is mandated by California State law.”

The disease is typically transferred through the saliva from a bite or scratch inflicted by an animal with rabies.

Animal Control Officer Shawn Shimer adds, “Animals which have had contact with wildlife are placed into a quarantine period. The quarantine is imposed to observe clinical signs or symptoms of the disease.”

The length of the quarantine is based on the vaccine status of the animal at the time of the exposure. If the animal has received a vaccine, the quarantine period is 30 days, and if there was no vaccine, it is six months. Regardless of which, an animal must receive a booster within 48 hours of exposure. The quarantine is cancelled if there is a specimen available for testing and it comes back as negative.

Clinical signs of rabies include three phases:

The prodromal stage  lasts two to three days.  During this stage, signs of erratic behavior may include irritability, restlessness, chewing at the bite site.

The furious stage  lasts two to four days.  During this stage, signs of erratic behavior may include irritability, restlessness, barking, aggression, vicious attacks on inanimate objects, and unexplained roaming.  Disorientation and seizures may also develop.

The paralytic stage  lasts two to four days.  During this stage, signs of paralysis develop, usually beginning in the limb that was bitten.  Paralysis of the throat and face cause a change in the bark, drooling with typical foaming at the mouth.

Anyone with questions for Tuolumne County Animal Control, or seeking additional information, can call 209-694-2730.

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