With three more confirmed rabies cases in June — two in Copperas Cove and one in Gatesville — 2013 is on pace to be the worst rabies season in Coryell County in more than a decade.

The latest case of the disease was a raccoon killed by a dog on Monday on Twin Hills Road in Copperas Cove. A lab test by the Texas Department of Health confirmed Friday the raccoon was rabid.

The dog had been vaccinated in 2012 but was euthanized “just to be safe,” said David Wellington, senior animal control officer in Copperas Cove.

On Monday, Gatesville animal control officers learned from lab results that a dead skunk found June 3 in the 2400 block of Oak Drive was rabid.

Gatesville Police Chief Nathan Gohlke said two dogs in the yard where the dead skunk was found had current vaccinations and are being confined by the owner for 45 days, the state’s mandatory quarantine period.

Cove police were notified June 3 that a skunk captured in the 100 block of West Avenue F on May 29 was infected with rabies. Cove police were seeking information about people or animals who may have been in contact with the skunk.

With the most recent cases, the county’s 2013 rabies toll is 18 — all but two of them skunks — according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. One case of horse rabies was reported by a Gatesville veterinarian in April.

The heavy outbreak less than halfway through the year has the county on pace to surpass the last major rabies season of 23 confirmed cases in 2002.

Last year, there were only two reported cases of rabies in Coryell County — a skunk and a raccoon. In 2011, two skunks, a cat and a goat were confirmed with rabies in the county.

The 2013 rabies outbreak also is heavy in McLennan County, where 15 cases — 14 skunks and a cat — were confirmed by the state from Jan. 1 to June 8. The county had three rabies cases last year and five in 2011, according to state records.

Bell County reported six rabies cases so far this year — four skunks, a bat and a cat. Lampasas County reported two rabies cases — a skunk and a cat.

By law, dogs and cats must be vaccinated for rabies by a veterinarian. There is a vaccine available for horses, although it is not mandated by law.

Rabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system that can be transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal or saliva of a rabid animal introduced into a fresh scratch or cut in the skin, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website. In Texas, rabies is primarily found in wild skunks, foxes, bats and raccoons.

People, particularly pet owners, should look out for wild animals that are behaving abnormally and report them to police, Gohlke said.

For information or to report rabies, call (254) 865-2226 in Gatesville and (254) 547-5584 in Copperas Cove. In Killeen, call (254) 526-4455.

Contact Tim Orwig at torwig@kdhnews.com

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