A Painful Wildlife Lesson

A family in the northwestern part of the Hawkeye State learned the hard way why state game and fish agencies continually warn folks not to adopt young animals they discover in the wild, after a baby skunk they were raising in their home turned out to have rabies.

The five immediate family members are currently undergoing painful and extended rabies treatment after the animal became sick and was subsequently diagnosed with the highly infectious disease. Six others are being treated and at least 20 additional friends and neighbors who came into contact with the sick animal are being tested.

That kinda stinks, huh?

Further, the family's pet dog, which was not current with its rabies vaccination, will have to be quarantined for six months or euthanized.

"This is a classic example of a good-hearted person trying to help a wild creature," said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the public health department's medical director. "In Iowa, skunks are the reservoir for the rabies virus and all Iowa skunks should be considered potentially rabid."

The state health department used the unfortunate situation to remind people to avoid contact with all wild animals, especially skunks and bats, and to vaccinate pets against rabies.

"Most people don't take in skunks so it's not really that common," Quinlisk said.