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Skunk found in Long Beach tests positive for rabies

Skunk found in Long Beach tests positive for rabies, marking first case in L.A. County since 1979

A skunk found in Long Beach has tested positive for rabies, making it the first such case in Los Angeles County in 35 years, city health officials said.

A woman saw the skunk Thursday in an East Long Beach neighborhood and noticed its behavior was erratic, prompting her to immediately notify animal control. Authorities said she did not touch the skunk.

The skunk has been tested, but animal control officials are still waiting for state lab results to determine how it became infected with the virus, said Dr. Mitchell Kushner, the city's health officer.

The animal might have been bitten by a bat, which are known to carry rabies, or it could have been host to a specific strain of the virus found in skunks.

"We really don't know yet whether this is going to be a new thing," he said.

The infected animal marks the first confirmed case of rabies in skunks in L.A. County since 1979, authorities said.

Rabies, a virus causing severe brain damage in humans and animals, is not as common in skunks as it is in bats, which Kushner said make up about 80% of rabies cases throughout the state.

Still, some skunks found mostly in El Dorado and Monterey counties have tested positive for rabies in past years, he said.

Earlier in June, Monterey County animal control found a dead skunk, which tested positive for rabies.

Skunks infected with the virus will likely appear disoriented and have "crusty eyes and noses," according to Long Beach Animal Care Services.

Human can become infected with the virus by bite or contact with saliva carrying rabies.

Although Kushner said he does not want alarm to residents, he said they should never try to catch or hold a wild animal.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA, or email her at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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