The Pittsfield Health Department has been notified by the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory that two skunks captured in the vicinity of Canal and Boylston streets have tested positive for the rabies virus. The skunks recently had encounters with dogs that were kenneled in their yards.
Rabies is a very serious disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of mammals (animals with fur/hair), including man. Though rabies is usually a disease of wild animals, it can spread from an infected animal to a person. Transmission of the rabies virus occurs only when the saliva from a rabid animal is infectious and if a person or animal is exposed to that saliva from a bite, scratch, or in their eyes, nose or mouth. Anyone who may have had direct contact with saliva from a skunk or any other wild animal, should first wash out the wound with soap and water for ten minutes, then immediately contact their healthcare provider, the Pittsfield Health Department or Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617.983.6800 (available 24/7).
It is imperative that efforts be made to prevent rabies from spreading, says Gina Armstrong, Public Health Director. “Do not leave your pets unattended or feed your pets outside. Keep your garbage securely covered and recyclables indoors, and if you encounter a wild animal behaving oddly, contact Joe Chague, City of Pittsfield Animal Control Officer at 413.448.9750,” Armstrong says.
“Pet owners also should make sure that their pets have proper vaccinations. Vaccinations not only protect the pets against the rabies virus, but it also creates a protective buffer between wildlife rabies and humans.”
State law requires that dogs, cats and ferrets must be regularly vaccinated against rabies. If you live in vicinity of these positive cases and you think your pet might have been exposed to a skunk, please contact your veterinarian.