The first case of rabies of the New Year has been confirmed.  A skunk found in the Southeastern part of Wichita Falls has tested positive for rabies. Wichita Falls Public Health officials say most wild animals are not infected with rabies, however wild animals are unpredictable and it’s nearly impossible to know for certain if they have been exposed to the virus.

Bats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and foxes are the top five carriers of the virus in Texas and should be avoided.  Children and pets should be watched closely while outdoors to ensure that they do not come in contact with or touch wild animals. If a wild animal strays onto your property bring children and pets indoors, alert anyone else who may be in the vicinity and let the animal wander away.

If you see a wild animal, dog or cat during the day whose behavior seems particularly aggressive or unusual, contact Animal Control immediately at 940-761-7824. Do not attempt to capture or shoot the animal; it cannot be tested if shot in the head. Rabies can only be transmitted by saliva and exposure can occur if scratched by an infected animal or whenever saliva enters an open cut or the eyes, nose or mouth of the victim.

Animal Control offers the following steps to avoid exposure:

  • Ensure that all pets: dogs, cats and ferrets, are current on their rabies vaccinations. Livestock owners are also encouraged to vaccinate horses and other livestock. Any animal that has frequent contact with humans should be vaccinated.
  • Don’t let pets roam free.
  • Stay away from all wild animals and unknown dogs and cats.
  • Avoid wild animals-even if they appear friendly.
  • Never coax a wild animal to eat from your hand.
  • If you encounter a bat, do not handle it. Bats have extremely small teeth and you may not realize that you have been bitten.
  • Teach your children to report all bites, scratches and encounters with a wild or unknown animal.
  • Don’t feed or water your pets outside. Even empty bowls will attract wild and stray animals.
  • Keep your garbage securely covered. Open garbage will attract wild or stray animals.
  • Wild animals should not be kept as pets.
  • Enjoy all wild animals from a distance and teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals – even if they appear friendly.
  • If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to city or county animal control officials.