Michigan health department warns of possible rabies exposure from skunks purchased from breeder

CBS News Detroit Digital Brief for Dec. 6, 2023


CBS News Detroit Digital Brief for Dec. 6, 2023

04:00

(CBS DETROIT) – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is warning residents of possible rabies exposure from skunks purchased from sellers in Lapeer and Macomb counties.

Officials say anyone who purchased a skunk from Countryside Feather Farm/Rose’s Skunks in Attica or a Chesterfield Township/New Baltimore seller connected to Rose’s Skunks can surrender the animal to a local animal control agency for testing.

This comes after a skunk purchased from the seller tested positive on Nov. 29. A preliminary investigation revealed that the rehabilitated wild skunks possibly co-mingled with bred and captive skunks. Officials say it is unknown how many were infected.

Symptoms in animals include fever, lethargy, vomiting and lack of appetite. Days later, it can lead to brain dysfunction, difficulty walking, paralysis, seizures, difficulty swallowing, and abnormal behavior and aggression.

“If you have purchased one of these skunks from these facilities in the last six months, we are urging you to contact your veterinarian to have the animal examined. If you have interacted with a skunk from these facilities, we recommend you contact your health care provider or local health department about possible rabies exposure,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. 

“It can take months for rabies to show up in skunks. If the skunk you purchased is showing signs of illness or has died, please contact your veterinarian and health care provider immediately as you may be at risk for rabies and require treatment.”

MDHHS provided the following tips for families to protect themselves from rabies:

  • Avoid contact with wildlife, and don’t keep wild animals as pets and do not try to rehabilitate wildlife yourself. 
  • If a wild animal appears sick, please report it to the DNR at Michigan.gov/eyesinthefield or at 517-336-5030.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, seek immediate medical attention and alert the local health department.
  • Protect your pets by getting them vaccinated against rabies.
  • If your animal is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, or if you believe they have had unsupervised contact with wildlife, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. If possible, safely confine or capture the wild animal without touching it and contact your local animal control officer or veterinarian.

Officials say residents cannot have skunks bred in captivity without a permit from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“Where skunks are concerned, it’s illegal to take them from the wild for purposes of rehabilitation or to import them from another state or country. We are continuing to investigate this matter, working cooperatively with local authorities and other state agencies,” said DNR Law Enforcement Chief Jason Haines in a statement.

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