State agriculture officials are cautioning Oklahomans about a rabies outbreak in neighboring New Mexico. They are encouraging livestock and pet owners to be vigilant this spring in monitoring their animals.
According to a news release from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, New Mexico is experiencing one of the most concentrated outbreaks of rabies in decades with 32 animals testing positive since January.
More than a dozen people who were possibly exposed are being treated for rabies in New Mexico. The rabies outbreak has been concentrated in the Carlsbad area and been limited to rabid skunks and foxes which have spread the disease to cattle and horses.
Oklahoma averages about six cases of rabies in cattle each year, state agriculture officials said. Skunks are the primary carrier of rabies in Oklahoma, however in the past 10 years the state has had two bobcats, two foxes, two coyotes and one opossum diagnosed with rabies.
The drought that Oklahoma has experienced has resulted in wildlife and domestic livestock coming into contact with each other more frequently as wildlife have been forced to search for food and water.
Livestock and pet owners are encouraged to get their animals vaccinated for rabies and monitor them more closely for unusual behavior. Skunks are typically nocturnal so if they are seen during daytime hours it may be a sign the animal is behaving unnaturally, state agriculture officials said.