2006 Sees Record Low Of Rabies Cases In South Dakota

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In 2006, South Dakota reported its lowest number ever of animal rabies cases, says a Department of Health official.

Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist, said just 37 animals tested positive for rabies out of 645 submitted in 2006. That's the lowest case number since 1960, which is as far back as the department's rabies data goes.

In 2006, the wild rabid animals included 24 skunks and 2 bats. Eleven domestic animals tested positive and included 5 cats, 4 cattle, 1 horse, and 1 dog. There were no human rabies cases in South Dakota in 2006. The last human case was reported in the state in 1970.

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The risk of rabies is statewide, with rabid animals reported from 24 counties. The common skunk is the primary rabies reservoir animal in South Dakota. Pets and livestock contract rabies when bitten by rabid skunks. Bats may also carry rabies in South Dakota.

"Infected wild animals can transmit rabies to pets or livestock, which can then expose humans," said Dr. Kightlinger. "That's why it's so important that people don't attempt to catch or handle wildlife, and that they avoid animals that are unusually tame, aggressive or paralyzed. It's important to remember that even docile-appearing wild animals can be rabid."

Safe and effective rabies vaccines are available for pets and some classes of livestock. State Veterinarian, Dr. Sam Holland urged owners to have all pets vaccinated annually due to the large rabies reservoir that exists in skunks in South Dakota. Dr. Holland also recommended annual vaccination for horses that are kept close to dwellings or used frequently by children. "It's impractical to vaccinate all livestock against rabies but it's a good idea to vaccinate livestock that are particularly valuable or in frequent contact with humans," said Dr. Holland.

The following suggestions can reduce the risk of rabies:

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