JEFFERSON COUNTY, MO (KTVI)-- Jefferson County Health epidemiologist Kelly Fluharty is sending out a warning about rabies.
According to the county the numbers of rabies cases are up for wild animals. When it comes to skunks researchers are especially concerned because numbers are up 59 percent, a 15-year high. There are also cases found in dogs, cats and horses in Southeast Missouri. Officials fear it could spread to Jefferson and other nearby counties. Fluharty says so far this year 16 skunks have tested positive for the disease.
"We're also seeing some domesticated animals it`s an indicator of the level of the rabid wildlife population. Unimmunized domesticated animals are also interacting with rabid wildlife," said Fluharty.
Pet owners Sara Mennicucci and Joe Bondurant say they make it a point to keep their pets immunized.
"I think it`s important that you get your pets vaccinated its good for their health," said Mennicucci.
"Dogs will be dogs and they are always chasing squirrels. So I think you need to get rabies shots if my dog caught a wild animal I would not want him to get sick," said Bondurant.
Fluharty says more people experience animal bites during the summer. If you are bitten by a rabid animal try to safely quarantine it and get it to animal control. It`s also a good idea to wash your wound with soap and water for 15 minutes and get to a hospital.
"If you see strays in your community tell animal control so they can collect them those stray animals can be unimmunized and interacting with wildlife and are at a greater risk of passing that disease on to the community," Fluharty said.