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A recent outbreak of rabies is putting local pets and their owners in danger.
So far, seven cases, two in Waco, one in Woodway and four in Gatesville, have been confirmed in the area since the year began. The most recent case was confirmed Monday in a skunk found in Woodway, and one bite was confirmed last week.
According to Sgt. Patrick Swanton of the Waco Police Department, warm weather and increased human/animal contact is causing the rise in confirmed cases.
“Rabies has been around for a long time; it’s just that right now it’s a little more prevalent in our area because the animals are moving around,” Swanton said.
Rabies is spread most commonly through bites or scratches from infected animals and is fatal if untreated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the wild animal most commonly associated with rabies is the raccoon. However, in Central Texas, skunks are the most likely carriers. Foxes, bats and feral dogs and cats are other more common carriers of the virus. Animals that look sick, are acting overly aggressive or are salivating excessively are potentially infected and should be reported immediately.
In the case of a bite, the CDC recommends that the bite victim scrubs the area with soap and water to prevent transmission of the virus, and then seeks medical attention.
According to Swanton, the city is focusing on public education and prevention.
“The number one thing is awareness. Leave wildlife alone, if you have a cat or dog or wild animal bite report it to the police immediately,” Swanton said.
Additionally, the Humane Society of the United States recommends that all pets be vaccinated, and their vaccinations be kept up to date. Pets bitten by a potentially rabid animal should be quarantined, and a veterinarian should be contacted immediately.