ITHACA, N.Y. — A skunk caught on 2nd Street in the City of Ithaca tested positive for rabies, according to the Tompkins County Health Department. The skunk was captured earlier this week after it was observed on Cascadilla Street on Monday and 2nd Street on Tuesday.

Tompkins County Animal Control caught the skunk and sent a specimen to the New York State Department of Health for testing. The New York State Rabies Laboratory confirmed on Friday that the skunk was rabid.

According to the New York State Department of Health, the first sign of rabies in animals is usually a change from normal behavior. “It may become unusually aggressive or tame. The animal may lose its fear of people and natural enemies. A wild animal may appear affectionate and friendly. It may become excited or irritable and attack anything in its path. Staggering, convulsions, choking, frothing at the mouth and paralysis are sometimes seen. Many animals will make very unusual sounds. Infected animals usually die within one week after showing signs of rabies.”

Rabies is usually transmitted through the bite of wild and domestic rabid animals, according to the county health department, but can also be spread if saliva from a rabid animal enters the body through a mucous membrane or wound. The department cautions that people should wear gloves when handling a pet that may have come into contact with a rabid animal, and should wash any areas that may have come into contact with a rabid animal or its saliva thoroughly with soap and water.

In a media release, the health department urges everyone in Tompkins County to report all animal bites and scratches, as well as “any human or pet contact with saliva or other potentially infectious material (brain tissue, spinal tissue, or cerebro-spinal fluid) of wild animals or any animal suspected of having rabies.” Anyone who comes into contact with a bat or finds a bat in a room with a child, sleeping person or impaired person should also contact the department.

The department also issued a reminded that all dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated for rabies by the time they are four months old and vaccinations should be kept current.

Anyone who has questions or thinks they or their pet may have come in contact with the skunk or any other possibly rabid wild animal should contact the Tompkins County Health Department at (607) 274-6688.

Devon Magliozzi

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at dmagliozzi@ithacavoice.com or 607-391-0328.