- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

McCOOK, Neb. (AP) - A second 2014 case of rabies has been confirmed in a Nebraska animal, and officials fear the early-season cases could signal that the state’s in for another full year of such reports.

The Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department in McCook reported that a skunk was confirmed to have rabies, the North Platte Telegraph said (http://bit.ly/PDBft5 ).

A department official, Tami Herskowitz, said her office received the test results on Feb. 25.

The skunk was found earlier in the month in Hayes County, in southwest Nebraska, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Nobody was exposed to the virus in that case.

The first case was reported on Feb. 6 and involved a rabid cow in northwest Nebraska’s Sheridan County, the state’s health agency says. In that case, at least one person was exposed to the potentially deadly virus, although the state’s online rabies statistics website doesn’t say how many people were exposed.

Rabies is a viral disease transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal that affects people. It is almost always fatal if not treated before symptoms appear.

Symptoms in animals include general sickness, swallowing problems and excessive drooling, slow and unusual movement, no apparent fear of humans and aggression.

If last year is any indication, there will be a lot more cases reported in 2014, said state Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Leah Bucco-White.

“In 2013, we had rabies cases almost every month,” White said.

Last year, the state saw 33 confirmed cases of rabies, which was down from 59 cases in 2012.

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Information from: The North Platte Telegraph, http://www.nptelegraph.com