In the last two months a reported four cases of rabies have been confirmed in Graham by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“We are definitely having a rabies epidemic around here,” said Kim Shawver, animal control officer for the city of Graham. “I've been doing this since 1984 and I've never seen it like this.”

According to Shawver, the cases were confirmed by sending the skunks to the state health office for testing. Three of the animals infected were skunks found on Red Top Road, Third Street and Doral Court. The the last one, a kitten, was on Highway 16 South. 

Shawver said that the infected kitten was discovered after attacking a woman at her house on Highway 16.

“That cat (either) bit her or scratched her,” Shawver said. “It came running out at her and she looked down and saw her foot was bleeding. It was a wild kitten. I told her to make sure to send it off (to the TDSHS for testing) and she did, and (the test) came back positive.”

One dog, a mother cat and her litter of kittens were exposed to the disease. Since none of the animals were current on their rabies shots, each had to be euthanized. Currently there are three more dogs held in quarantine that were exposed to rabid skunks. 

“People need to understand that if their animals aren't current on their rabies vaccine, which means they've had it within the year, and they're exposed to a rabid animal, then its a 45-day quarantine. If you have a domestic animal that's exposed to rabies and not current on vaccinations, then it's a 90-day quarantine.”

Shawver has seen nine probable rabies cases in Young County that weren't sent off to the TDSHS because they only wants animals that have had human or animal contact, she said. Rabies can be transmitted from an infected animal to a domestic animal via saliva, most commonly through sharing food. 

Signs of rabies include loss of coordination and the lack of fear a wild animal will typically display towards a larger animal or human.

“Pretty much if a wild animal is friendly or tries to approach you, then something's wrong,” she said. “These dogs were barking, and instead of a skunk running away it dug into the pen to get to the dogs. When someone says a skunk chased them, that's a red flag right there.”

The most common-known sign of a rabies — when a nocturnal animal is seen in the daylight —  doesn't necessarily mean that the animal is rabid.

“There are animals that are primarily nocturnal, and there's gonna be a percentage of those out during the day,” said Brent Isom, game warden. “Just because they're out during the day doesn't mean they're diseased. Because of the lack of insects and the dry climate they (may) have to forage all day long to find enough (food) because times are tough.”

Read more in Wednesday's Graham Leader.