After laboratory tests confirmed rabies in a 16-week-old puppy from the Thief River Falls area, health officials are alerting people who may have had contact with the dog at the Push Turbo shop in Thief River Falls between Sept. 2 and Sept. 14. The dog, which tested positive for rabies in late September, frequently had contact with people at the business.
In early July, a skunk attacked the puppy (a male blue heeler/black labrador retriever) while the puppy was living at a breeder’s house in Roseau County. The breeder shot the skunk but did not submit it for rabies testing. The puppy recovered from the attack but developed a lameness and fever on Sept. 12 and it was brought to a veterinarian for evaluation. The puppy was examined at a second veterinary clinic on Sept. 14, at which time the veterinarian learned about the skunk attack. The puppy was isolated at the clinic and its condition deteriorated. Two days later, the puppy was euthanized and rabies was confirmed on Sept. 21.
Upon learning of the case, MDH contacted 35 people who were potentially exposed to the puppy between Sept. 2 and Sept. 14. MDH recommended 25 of those people receive post-exposure treatment as a precaution. However, MDH remains concerned that there may be other people who were exposed but remain unaware of the risk. While rabies in humans is very rare, it is fatal once symptoms appear. For this reason, getting swift preventive treatment is an important protective measure for people who had contact with a rabid animal. There is no ongoing risk at the shop at this time and MDH is only concerned about people who were exposed between Sept. 2 and Sept. 14.
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health conducted follow-up site visits to assess animal exposure. This case is an important reminder for animal owners to report abnormal observed interactions between wildlife and domestic animals immediately to a veterinarian and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.
For additional information on rabies in animals and to view a map of positive cases in Minnesota, visit the BAH website. For questions about rabies exposure to domestic animals, call 651-201-6808. For questions about rabies exposure in people, contact MDH at 651-201-5414.