Skunk tests positive for rabies recently in El Paso County.

Health officials in El Paso County recently confirmed rabies in a skunk, the third positive test for the disease this year in the county.

Rabies-carrying animals are found more commonly in the summer, and health officials urge the public to be aware and keep their pets up to date on vaccinations, according to a news release. People should not touch or feed wild or stray animals.

Rabies, a virus, is also found in bats, raccoons and foxes. Squirrels and rabbits are not considered a rabies risk, the release said.

Rabies can be spread to people through the bite of rabid animals. The saliva of an infected animal saliva can get into a person’s open wounds or cuts or can enter through membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth.

Rabies affects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage. It can be fatal once symptoms appear.

A preventive vaccination is available for people who have been bitten by a rabid animal. Anyone bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal should contact their doctor immediately, the release said.

Last year in El Paso County, 16 animals — five bats, nine skunks, one fox and one dog — tested positive for rabies. In 2018, 67 animals tested positive, including 60 skunks. In 2017, 28 animals were found to be positive, including 21 skunks.

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