Adams County miniature pony tests positive for rabies; second equine case since 2013

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AURORA | A miniature pony in Adams County has tested positive for rabies, marking the second domestic livestock case in the state this year, according to state health department. 

The first was case this year was a mule in Eagle County. These two cases are the first equine cases in the state since 2013, according to the state health agency. Normally, rabies is found in wild animals such as raccoons, bats and skunks. 

“This incident highlights the need for two important things — reporting suspect rabies cases and up-to-date vaccinations. Prompt reporting of suspect cases allows for timely diagnosis and appropriate follow-up measures to protect animal and human health,” State Veterinarian Dr. Maggie Baldwin said in a statement. “Vaccinating pets and livestock is the single best method to prevent the disease which is fatal in nearly 100% of the cases.”

Rabies, which is spread mostly through saliva, infects the brain and can affect animals in different ways; sometimes making an animal aggressive and other times they appear weak and lethargic. The state health department warned that cases have been confirmed in animals that showed no clear signs of the virus.

There is no cure for rabies, making the infection fatal in animals. 

So far this year there have been 21 cases of rabies confirmed in Colorado, 17 of those in skunks. Rabid skunks are more likely to be discovered in the spring when kits emerge from winter dens. Rabid bats are more likely to be found in late summer, “when maternity collates are breaking up and juvenile bats are emerging,” according to the state Department of Agriculture.

The state agency advises pet and livestock owners to keep animals up-to-date with rabies vaccinations to prevent spread of the virus. The department also warns Coloradans to beware of skunks out during the day and acting abnormally. Skunks are generally shy, reclusive animals, out mostly at night.

They also say to avoid orphaned wildlife and contact a veterinarian right away if pets or livestock are bitten or scratched by wildlife or if they are showing any neurologic or dramatic behavioral changes. 

In 2020, 92 cases of rabies were confirmed in Colorado. The state estimates those cases exposed 102 people to the virus, 46 livestock animals and 111 pets.

Note: A previous version of the article mistakenly said rabies was normally found in rabbits. It’s actually quite rare. Rabies is normally found in wild animals such as raccoons, bats and skunks.

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