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Dog tests positive for rabies in Big Horn County

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Posted at 11:45 AM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 13:45:46-05

The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) received confirmation on Friday of the fifth case of rabies not involving a bat in the state this year.

The rabies-infected dog was in Big Horn County and was submitted for testing after it developed neurologic signs and later died, the agency said in a press release issued Wednesday. The dog had contact with a skunk five weeks prior, where it is assumed to have been exposed to the rabies virus.

This is the 20th case of rabies in Montana this year.

While the disease is highly preventable in domestic animals through the administration of rabies vaccine, cases involving vaccinated animals do occur on occasion. The dog in this situation was previously vaccinated though was not current on vaccinations.

"This case should catch the attention of Montana animal owners,” says Dr. Anna Forseth with the Department of Livestock. “A single dose of vaccine is unlikely to protect an animal for their entire life. Booster shots are needed to sustain a strong immunity, especially when exposed to rabid wildlife species."

In response to the diagnosis, MDOL has issued a 60-day county-wide quarantine in Big Horn County for dogs, cats, and ferrets that are not currently vaccinated for rabies. The quarantine is in effect from the date of the skunk exposure on Nov. 15 until Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Animals past-due for a rabies vaccine booster, animals that are not 28 days past the date of first vaccine administration, and animals that have never been vaccinated are all subject to the quarantine, the press release states.

Rabies is a fatal viral disease that can spread through the saliva of an infected animal. Residents should check the rabies vaccination status of all animals and report any contact between a pet and a wild animal, including skunks and bats, to their veterinarian or the MDOL to ensure potential rabies exposure are assessed for risk and managed accordingly.