Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Prevent Animal-borne Disease - End of Season

The 2009 zoonoses season is winding down and pet and citizen encounters with insects and wildlife are starting to decrease. The summer started out cool and wet and it looked like we might have a very active season West Nile Virus (WNV) season. Our integrated mosquito management program started in early June and was prepared for a very busy season but the WNV activity started slow and remained that way throughout the 2009 season. Compared to past years this will be one of the slowest WNV seasons we have had since WNV first came to Colorado. At this time Jefferson County has had 5 cases of WNV and the State has 51. The total number of cases in the State will probably increase slightly but that number will still be lower than any of the past five years. Jefferson County cases have always been lower than other highly populated counties and that is the case this year, never having more than 10 cases during the WNV season the last five seasons.

The wet and cool weather did lead to more plague activity in prairie dog colonies than we have seen over the past few years. We had prairie dog die offs due to plague from infected fleas in the north and south ends of the county. Citizen use in those areas was restricted and JCPH monitored the flea activity in those areas and continued to find infected fleas weeks after the prairie dogs were gone. The health department is now waiting for the first frost of the year to eliminate any remaining fleas so the areas can be opened for public use.

The number of specimens submitted for rabies testing in 2009 has been about average this year with over 70 animals tested with 40 of those specimens being wild animals. Two bats tested positive for rabies this summer. Every year, several counties from around the State, including Jefferson County, have bats test positive for rabies. In 2007 skunk rabies was detected in several eastern Colorado Counties and this summer skunk rabies worked its way into El Paso County and eastern Arapahoe County. El Paso County is south of the Denver metro area and had several skunks test positive for rabies this past summer. It is only a matter of time before skunk rabies makes its way into the Denver Metro area and into Jefferson County. Now that there are two wild animals that could have rabies in Colorado (bats and skunks) it is very important that everyone always remember the following points.

Keep your pets (dogs, cats, and ferrets), horses and other high-value livestock up to date on their rabies vaccinations.
Stay away from an animal exhibiting bizarre behavior, such as a nocturnal animal like a skunk wandering about during the day or a bat on the ground.
Never feed or approach wild animals and everyone should stay away from wild animals.
If your pet is bitten or scratched by a wild animal consult your veterinarian immediately.
Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect you’ve been exposed to rabies.
If you must remove a dead animals from your property lift the carcass with a shovel or other tool and place the animal into a double-bag and throw it out in the trash.

As the summer comes to a close and everyone starts to enjoy winter time activities remember to add warm clothes, water proof shoes, and a winter time survival kit to your planned activities.

That’s it for me, now I will turn the reins over to Jody Erwin who is going to teach us all about Emergency Preparedness and H1N1.

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