Officials urge caution following rabies outbreak

CNJ staff photo: Tonjia Rolan Veterinarian Jack Murphy soothes Buttercup after giving her a rabies vaccination at his office on Prince Street.

Tonjia Rolan

A rabies outbreak in Eddy County has state and local health officials across eastern New Mexico urging caution.

While there are no confirmed cases in Curry or Roosevelt counties so far this year, the outbreak may be related to drought conditions, according to State Public Health Veterinarian Paul Ettestad.

“Drought conditions are driving wildlife closer to urban areas in search of water and food,” Ettestad said.

“Thirty-two dogs have been euthanized and eight people are being treated for rabies in Eddy county.”

Ettestad said 25 skunks, one fox and one dog have tested positive in the county.

Rabies is spread to pets through the bite of infected wildlife such as skunks, foxes and bats, which are the main culprits in New Mexico. An infected pet can put an entire family at risk Ettestad said.

Clovis Veterinarian Jack Murphy attributed Curry County’s low incidence of rabies, in part, to a decreased population of feral dog packs, which were a problem in the 1970’s and 80’s.

“I remember we had three or four confirmed cases in the county back then,” Murphy said. “Joggers used to carry sticks or canes because they were afraid of being attacked.”