To help Wyoming residents avoid a deadly disease for themselves, as well as for pets and livestock, the Wyoming Department of Health is asking pet and livestock owners to vaccinate their animals.

Rabies can infect any mammal, including pets, livestock, small wildlife and humans. The virus affects the central nervous system, causing paralysis and ultimately death. Symptoms include behavior changes, including aggression and agitation, and also excessive salivation.

Dr. Karl Musgrave, state public health veterinarian with the Wyoming Department of Health, reminded people about the importance of animal vaccinations. He says it's also important to report animal bites to your local animal control officers and follow their instructions, including quarantines if needed.

Since 2000, rabies has been confirmed in Wyoming bats, cats, cows, dogs, foxes, horses, squirrels and skunks. In 2014, 52 skunks, six bats, one cat, and one fox tested positive for rabies in Wyoming. So far in 2015 there have been three positive skunks (all from Sheridan County) and two bats. Musgrave noted the reported numbers of animal cases confirmed by testing are likely far lower than the true number.

“For people, treatment after rabies exposure to prevent illness involves five or six shots given over a month and costing several thousand dollars,” Musgrave said. “There is no question that preventing rabies exposure as much as possible in the first place is best.”

Tips for preventing rabies:
· Vaccinate dogs, cats, ferrets, horses and other selected livestock for rabies and keep vaccinations up-to-date.
· Keep pets under supervision in a yard or on a leash to minimize contact with wild animals.
· Enjoy wildlife such as skunks, bats, raccoons and foxes from a safe distance.
· Never adopt wild animals or bring them into the home. Do not try to nurse sick or injured animals – call animal control for help.
· Teach children to never approach unfamiliar dogs, cats or wildlife, even if they appear friendly.
· Report animals acting strangely to city or county animal control departments.
· Treat animal bites with soap and water and contact a medical professional immediately.
· People waking to find a bat in their room or a child’s room should contact a medical professional immediately as bats have such small teeth even unknown or minor contact with bats has led to rabies infection.