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As the weather warms, health officials are warning that wild animals become more active and increases possible exposure to rabies after a skunk was found with the disease in an urban area of Genesee County.

The discovery of the rabid skunk is the first case in an animal this year, according to the Genesee County Health Department.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of mammals. A human could contract rabies through saliva, a scratch or bite of an infected animal.

“A potential rabies exposure should never be taken lightly,” health officials said Thursday. “Treatment is available and effective for rabies if medical attention is received shortly after contact. If untreated, rabies is fatal.”

All pets, whether they are kept inside or outdoors, should receive the rabies vaccine, health officials said. Vaccines are available for animals including dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep.

The Genesee County Health Department offers the following tips to prevent the spread of rabies.

If a bat is in your home, do not release the bat until after speaking with the health department or animal control. It may be possible to test the bat and avoid the need for rabies treatment.

Immediately contact a veterinarian if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.

Never adopt wild animals or try to nurse sick, wild animals. Never bring wild animals into your home.

Teach children to never handle unfamiliar wild or domestic animals.

A person who believes they may have been bitten should immediately call their physician and notify their local or the state health department.

The Michigan Department of Communicable Disease Division can be reached at (517) 335-8165 and after hours at (517) 335-9030.

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

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