Rabies in Los Angeles County, Skunk Confirmed as First Case Since 1979

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

A skunk that was exhibiting erratic behavior was captured by Long Beach Animal Care Services, and it tested positive for rabies in the first confirmed case in Los Angeles County in almost 35 years, NBC reports.

The skunk underwent testing on Thursday, June 26, after a woman in East Long Beach saw it acting strangely and notified animal control.

City health officials say she did not touch the animal. It is unknown if any other humans or animals had contact with the skunk, NBC reports.

Skunks infected with the virus will likely appear disoriented and have "crusty eyes and noses," Long Beach Animal Care Services says.

Although testing for the disease can be done locally, Dr. Mitchell Kushner, Long Beach City Health Officer, told the Los Angeles Times that they will have to wait for State laboratory results to determine how the skunk contracted the virus.

Any mammal can be infected by rabies.  Humans can contract the disease through bites or saliva from an infected animal. .

In addition, officials said that people should not touch injured or sick animals and instead report them to appropriate authorities promptly.


In the United States, distinct strains of rabies virus have been identified in raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes, says the Center for Disease Control.

 In California rabies is commonly found in bats, skunks and foxes, city officials say.

USA Today reports on August 18, 2013, that a study has determined, “Cats are the main domestic animal linked to human exposure to rabies.”

“Efforts to care for abandoned cats could mean more humans will be exposed to rabies,” researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opine.

“For 30 years, the main domestic animal linked to human exposure to rabies in the United States has been the cat. In the past 10 years, the number of feral cat colonies has exploded as animal-rights groups fight to end the capturing and killing of strays’, says Charles Rupprecht, director of research for the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, who was senior author of the CDC study.

"Residents need to avoid contact with any wildlife and ensure their domestic pets are vaccinated for rabies to avoid the disease being passed to humans," said Dr. Mitchell Kushner,  Long Beach City Health Officer.

Officials warn against touching injured or sick animals and instead advise reporting them to appropriate authorities promptly.


Rabies is a viral infection that leads to encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, along with the more well-known symptoms of paralysis, spasms and the inability to drink water.

Symptoms for the disease usually present themselves one to three months after infection, but after they do the disease is nearly always fatal.  

If an animal bite does happen, authorities recommend washing the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seeking medical attention immediately.

Sources: NBC Los Angeles, LA Times, USA Today, CDC