Skunk found at child care center tested for rabies
By KATE LUDLOW
A potentially rabid skunk was found behind a local child care center Monday, prompting new concern about the rabies epidemic in northwest Williamson County.
Liberty Hill Police Chief Randy Williams commended the child care facility staff for their actions saying, “they did great. They kept the kids indoors. They did everything correctly. They were helpful and preventive.”
The child care center contacted Williamson County Animal Control at about 7:30 a.m. Monday and LHPD was then contacted, and officers arrived shortly afterward to keep the animal on site until Animal Control could arrive.
“He (the skunk) really just stayed in about an 8-foot area, which was good,” said Williams. “There was definitely something wrong with it. Every now and then it would move around in a circle, then pass out, which is indicative of rabies.”
The skunk was shot by Animal Control officers and taken in for testing. As of press time Wednesday, those test results were not complete.
Williams said the skunk was on the outside of the facility’s fenced-in playground, separated from the children. No human was reported to have come into contact with the animal.
In 2011, Williamson County had the highest number of rabies cases in the state with 135 cases, compared to 80 cases in 2010. In 2010, only one skunk was found to be rabid among the 80 cases.
In 2011, 44 rabid skunks were found. The rest of 2011’s reported cases included 86 bats, one cat, one dog, two raccoons and one fox.
According to Marcus Cooper, Communications and Marketing Director for Williamson County & Cities Health District, the drought has had a significant impact on the number of rabies cases.
“The number of animal rabies cases, particularly among skunks, has more than doubled since 2010 in Williamson County and Central Texas, and the increase may be due in large part to the drought,” he said. “During a drought, animals may have to expand their territory in search of food and water, increasing the likelihood of interaction with each other and then infecting each other through bites.”
In humans, rabies is almost always fatal if post-exposure treatment is not sought, Cooper said.
“To improve surveillance for animal bites and possible rabies exposures, efforts are needed to enhance the relationship between public health and animal control, as well as emergency rooms and other providers of rabies prophylaxis,” he said. “Several barriers exist to obtaining prophylaxis in a timely manner including cost and access/availability, particularly for residents without insurance. Efforts to improve rabies education in schools and across the county are needed. In partnership with local veterinarians, raising vaccination coverage for pets is also a high priority.”
The Texas State Department of Health Services recommends that all pets be properly vaccinated against rabies, including livestock. Do not feed or handle any stray animals as they are more likely to bite, causing a potential rabies exposure. Immediately report animal bites to animal control or a health professional.
To report an animal, call the Williamson County Animal Control office at (512) 943-1389.