September 29, 2009 08:49 am
SPECIAL TO THE CHIEFTAIN
September 28, 2009 7:35 PM
Back-to-back cases of a rabid mountain lion and a cow in eastern El Paso County have provided the latest evidence of the fatal disease’s sudden resurgence in the area in recent months.
The animals were euthanized late last week after displaying bizarre behavior, and their positive tests for rabies were announced Monday. The cases come just two weeks after a rabid horse was euthanized in the Black Forest area, and Colorado’s top veterinarian says northern and eastern El Paso County appear to be among the worst places for rabies statewide.
“This area around Calhan and Peyton seems to be rather interesting right now,” said Keith Roehr.
It’s not clear how the lion and cow were infected, but health officials speculate the cases are tied to skunk rabies, which recently surfaced in El Paso County for the first time since 1970. Since then, eight skunks have tested positive, most in the north and eastern parts of the county.
The mountain lion attacked a man’s pet dog about 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the Peyton area, said Michael Seraphin, a spokesman with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The man kicked the lion, which at first did not let go but eventually retreated to the man’s garage. The man trapped it in the garage until DOW officers arrived. DOW tranquilized the lion and decided to submit it for rabies testing, because the daytime attack, the lion’s location, and its response to the man were all unusual. The results came back positive Monday evening. It was not known Monday whether the dog was current on its rabies vaccine.
On Friday, a rabid cow in the Calhan area was euthanized. Veterinarian Robert DeAngelo examined the cow, which was standing on its back legs only and had a look in its eyes “like nobody’s home,” DeAngelo said. He got the cow to stand and it wobbled, another tell-tale sign of rabies.
DeAngelo, his veterinary technician, and the cow’s owner were all exposed to the virus from the cow and are getting treated. DeAngelo received seven injections Saturday and must undergo one injection a week for the next month.
Veterinarians and health officials are urging people to vaccinate their pets, and in many cases their livestock.
Although livestock in Colorado is not traditionally at risk of rabies, the cow and horse are evidence that’s changing.
Roehr said skunks tend to reside near outbuildings, so animals on the open plains are at as great of a risk as those on ranchettes or closer to neighborhoods and buildings.
DeAngelo also warned livestock owners against buying vaccine from supply stores and doing it themselves. Without a veterinarian’s supervision, there’s no way to know whether it was done properly or if the animal is adequately protected.
Although confirmed cases are generally occurring in the same parts of the county, health officials are working under an assumption that the disease could be anywhere, and they say the public should do the same.
“You have to assume it’s in the whole county and not just these isolated areas,” said Shannon Rowe, communicable disease program manager for the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment.
Call Newsome at 636-0198. Visit the Pikes Peak Health blog at www.pikespeakhealth.freedomblogging.com and the Gazette’s Health page at Gazette.com/health
Get pets, horses and other high-value livestock vaccinated.
Don’t feed wild animals or allow your pets around them. Make sure children stay away from wild animals.
Contact the vet if a pet is bitten or scratched by a wild animal.
Call a doctor immediately if you suspect you’ve been exposed to rabies.
Stay away from an animal exhibiting bizarre behavior, such as a nocturnal animal like a skunk wandering about during the day.
If you must remove a dead skunk on your property, wear rubber gloves or lift the carcass with a shovel or other tool, and double-bag it for the trash.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org