The first case of rabies in Lawrence this year, and the fourth in Douglas County since Dec. 27, was confirmed in a puppy Wednesday, according to the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
Greg Olmsted, director of environmental health, said the puppy was discovered in a barn within Lawrence city limits and was given to a Baldwin resident, who noticed symptoms of rabies three days later. The Baldwin owner kept the puppy inside, so the animal must have contracted rabies while still in Lawrence, he said.
Olmsted said the owner of the barn reported seeing skunks, the most common carrier of rabies in Kansas, wandering around the barn.
The rabies was confirmed after the puppy was put to sleep and tests were run at Kansas State University.
The puppy's mother, a stray chow-shepherd mix, was captured and also put to sleep. Her head has been sent to Kansas State's department of veterinary diagnosis to determine if she was infected with rabies, he said.
Olmsted urged anyone who might have had contact with the puppy or its mother to contact a physician.
Since Dec. 27, rabies has been confirmed in another dog, a cow and a skunk in Douglas County, and a skunk on the Jefferson-Douglas county border. Of the 22 cases of rabies confirmed in the state so far this year, all but one were in the northeast part of the state.
Mark Marks, president of the Douglas County Veterinary Medical Assn., said participating Douglas County veterinarians will offer one-year rabies vaccinations for a reduced fee during regular office hours Wednesday through Feb. 15.
Marks said the offer is a public service, intended to increase awareness of rabies in the community.
"We need to understand that in mammals, rabies causes 100 percent mortality," he said. "We want to emphasize that people need to get their animals vaccinated. Outside of wild animals, the number one domestic animal we find with rabies are cats."
Olmsted offered a number of recommendations regarding rabies:
Avoid contact with wild or unknown animals, and don't keep wild animals as pets.
Vaccinate dogs and cats, and get the appropriate booster shots.
Spay or neuter pets to prevent them from wandering and to help reduce the population of stray animals.
Report any possibly infected animals that have bitten, scratched or licked another animal or person to the health department, police or sheriff's office.
Contact a physician if exposure to a rabid animal is suspected.