HELENA – State officials have placed Yellowstone County under a rabies quarantine after a horse in Worden came down with the disease earlier this month.

The quarantine means that dogs, cats, ferrets or any other “terrestrial animal,” according to state law, must be vaccinated against rabies at least two weeks before being moved outside the county. The quarantine will remain in effect for 60 days.

State livestock officials announced the quarantine Tuesday afternoon, saying it went into effect on June 3, after the disease was confirmed in the Worden horse.

The horse was euthanized.

An investigation is also under way to see if any people or other animals were exposed to the disease from the sickened horse.

Rabies is endemic in Montana, although bats and skunks typically account for the vast majority of cases. The disease usually shows up in late spring or early summer.

“It’s the time of the year when pet and livestock owners need to be vigilant and take proper precautions,” said Dr. Marty Zaluski, the state veterinarian, in a written statement.

Rabies is a virus that can affect all mammals, including humans. It spread by the saliva of an affected person or animal, usually through bites, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rabies causes swelling of the brain and is almost always fatal if treatment does not begin before symptoms appear.

The disease is very rare among people in the United States, according to the CDC, with only about one or two rabies deaths nationwide each year.

Yellowstone County has been under rabies quarantine eight times since 2008.

State law requires that all suspected cases of rabies be reported to the Montana state veterinarian at 406-444-2043.

State officials recommend that anyone bitten or scratched by an animal should thoroughly wash out the wound and seek medical care. All animal bites should be reported to the county health department or Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office at 256-2929.

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Source: The Billings Gazette