Press Release

January 21, 2005

A cow in Bureau County tests positive for rabies

SPRINGFIELD , Ill. – The Illinois Department of Agriculture’s animal disease lab in Galesburg has confirmed that a cow owned by an eastern Bureau County resident tested positive for rabies on Jan. 13, the second domestic animal to be euthanized due to this disease in Illinois since December. The state departments of Public Health, Agriculture and Natural Resources have reminded Illinois citizens to stay away from wild animals that may be carrying the rabies virus.

Last month, a horse in LaSalle County tested positive for a skunk strain of rabies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested the cow’s brain to determine if it was infected with the skunk strain of rabies. The test was positive for a skunk strain of rabies on Jan. 21, 2005. There were two possible sites of rabies exposure for the cow. It was purchased in LaSalle county and grazed in fields just inside the county line of west central LaSalle County. Seven people have been treated with rabies preventative treatment following exposure to the cow.

“Rabies cases among domestic animals are extremely rare and to have two occur within a month period causes some concern,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “Local animal control agencies are being asked to increase skunk surveillance in the northern third of the state. This surveillance will be used to determine if the virus is circulating widely in skunks in this area of the state.”

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Rabies is most commonly transmitted to people through the bite of a rabid animal. Rabies is almost always a fatal disease once symptoms appear. Prompt rabies treatment after exposures can prevent the development of rabies.

"It is important for the protection of pets that both dogs and cats be kept current on their rabies vaccinations,” said state veterinarian Dr. Mark Ernst. “It is also recommended that valuable livestock be vaccinated to prevent further cases of this preventable disease."

Wild animals, especially raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes or bats, can have rabies and transmit it to people. Animals with rabies may not be foaming at the mouth or showing aggressive behavior. Changes in the animal’s normal behavior, such as difficulty walking or just an overall appearance of illness, can be early signs of rabies. For example, skunks, which normally are nocturnal and avoid contact with people, may appear friendly or aggressive and may approach humans during daylight hours.

Illinois residents, particularly in this tri-county area, should take the following precautions:

  • Vaccinate pets and valuable livestock or horses after consultation with their animal’s veterinarian.
  • Stay away from wild, unfamiliar or stray animals to avoid bites that may transmit rabies.
  • Report sightings of skunks, which are acting abnormally, seen during daylight hours, having trouble walking, being aggressive or approaching humans.
  • Contact your physician and local health department if you or someone in your family is bitten by an animal or exposed to a bat.
  • Contact your local animal control and veterinarian if you believe your pet may have been bitten by a wild mammal (i.e. skunks, raccoons, fox, coyotes or bats).







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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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