2012-08-09 / Front Page

Gas Man Sprayed By Rabid Skunk

Second case of human exposure in 2012
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Another case of human exposure to the rabies virus was confirmed here last week.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Kevin Mountz said test results came back positive for rabies in a skunk that sprayed a Manns Choice, Pa., man who was working in southern Fulton County last Wednesday.

According to Mountz, the gas company employee was at a residence on the 1700 block of Mountain Road, Needmore, on August 1 when the polecat came out of hiding. The skunk made its way to a cat dish near the home’s porch and attacked a kitten.

Mountz stated the homeowner attempted to shoot the skunk, but it tried to get away under the porch. The gas man intervened with a pole in hopes of keeping the skunk from fleeing and hiding. However, the skunk turned and sprayed the man directly in the face.

“The victim told me, ‘That skunk’s aim was dead on,’ ” Mountz added. Due to the man coming in direct contact with the skunk’s bodily fluid, testing in the human exposure case was performed by the state Department of Health in Lionville, Pa. In cases where a domesticated animal could have been affected, testing is completed by the Department of Agriculture’s veterinary lab in Harrisburg.

The Game Commission was alerted shortly after 9:30 a.m. last Wednesday, and results in the case were available Friday. The Department of Health has since contacted all involved parties, Mountz said.

Last week’s incident was the second case of human exposure to rabies confirmed by the “News” in 2012. Earlier this summer, a Needmore woman and her adult son underwent post-exposure treatment following an encounter with a feral cat.

The woman told the “News” at the time that she had been helping stray cats for around 12 years by finding them homes, getting them medical treatment and feeding them. One of the cats attacked the woman’s son as he tried to get into his vehicle and emerged from hiding days later and aggressively charged at the woman.

Given the cat’s aggression toward the other stray cats and the fact she had been bitten several weeks ago by a stray kitten, the woman and her son underwent the painful 15-day treatment for rabies.

Mountz noted raccoons are typically ranked number one on the list of rabies carriers in the state, while skunks and feral cats fall in at number two and three. Even though, animals, such as skunks, are typically nocturnal creatures, seeing them during daylight hours doesn’t necessarily make them suspect, said Mountz, who added dramatic changes in weather will bring about changes in an animal’s habits and behavior.

The wildlife conservation officer further suggests not keeping extra dog and cat food outside for any prolonged period of time as the food tends to draw in a variety of wildlife.

Early signs of rabies in animals include changes in personality ranging from stuporous to unusually aggressive. Paralysis of the throat muscles is also a common sign of rabies, which causes an excess of saliva and an inability to swallow. The incubation period of rabies varies depending where on the body an animal has been bitten.

Early onset symptoms of rabies in humans are “nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation and hydrophobia, which is a fear of water. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention adds that death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

In future events where local residents have suspicions a wild or domesticated animal has been infected, the animal should be killed humanely without damaging the head. While wearing plastic or rubber gloves, the head should be placed in a sealed container and refrigerated with ice. Do not use dry ice, and do not freeze it. Game Commission representatives from the Southcentral Regional Office should be contacted immediately when dealing with wild animals by calling 814-643-1831.

Veterinarians can also explain procedures to have an animal delivered to a qualified laboratory for testing. Testing is free of charge from the state Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg at 717-787-8808.

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