Do All Skunks Have Rabies?

When it comes to diseases you can catch from animals in your typical city, rabies is one of the most frightening, if not THE MOST frightening, diseases to make a list. Even as kids we're taught to be extremely wary of this disease and are thus fed all kinds of knowledge about to it so that if need be, we can identify it at once and stay away. One of the things we're told is to generally stay away from animals that can cause us rabies, like skunks. However, does the claim that all skunks carry rabies hold any value, or is it just something our paranoia has cooked up over the years?

Well to better answer this question, let us first glance over what rabies is.

Rabies and how it's transmitted

Put simply; rabies is caused by a virus that affects the central nervous system of an animal, specifically mammals. While it might take a little time for the infected host to show any signs of rabies (ranging from one day to one whole year in a few odd cases), what's scary is that when the symptoms do show themselves the disease almost always progresses to a fatal stage. It's transmitted through the saliva of the infected animal when the animal bites you (to catch rabies it has to enter your body, the virus is ineffective outside your skin), but only through the saliva, which rules out transmission through urine, feces, or in the case of skunks, their infamous stink spray.

Now back to the real question. Do all skunks carry rabies?

Not really

Saying all skunks carry rabies is like saying all humans carry the flu; true, they often catch the disease, but a skunk can only transmit the disease if it has it in the first place. Which means you can only catch rabies from a RABID skunk, and not every skunk you'll encounter in the wild is going to be rabid. Therefore, the first thing you need to know is how to spot a rabid skunk from a healthy one.

How to tell if a skunk is rabid

Rabid animals, including skunks, may exhibit one of two unique types of behaviors. On the one hand, they may have the 'furious' form of rabies, the one we're more familiar with, and seem very aggressive, attacking anything that approaches them. On the other hand, they could have the 'dumb' form of rabies, where they abandon the fury for brainless courage and proceed to arch boldly wherever they please, without being even slightly intimidated by anything, including humans. There's also the telltale frothing of the mouth to look for; once you spot that, you KNOW an animal is rabid.

Stay safe

Once you're sure an animal is rabid, your next step is to put as much distance between yourself and it as is humanly possible. Call wildlife control and inform them of the situation. DO NOT TRY AND BE A HERO AND TAKE CARE OF IT ON YOUR OWN. Safety should be your number one priority.

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