Pregnant Cow in Rock County Tests Positive for Rabies

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A pregnant cow from Rock County was submitted for rabies testing on March 20, 2024, after a local veterinarian suspected the cow was infected with the virus.

On March 14, a farmer contacted a veterinarian to after observing that one of his late-term pregnant cows appeared to be acting abnormally and thought she might birth her calf or have bowel discomfort. A veterinarian examined the cow and administered treatment for a possible intestinal blockage. The cow did not improve but was seen favoring one side while walking away. On March 18, the cow was unable to stand. Paralysis and other neurological signs of rabies had progressed. The cow was euthanized the same day and submitted for testing to the South Dakota State University Diagnostic Laboratory in Brookings, SD. Results were reported positive for the rabies virus on March 20. This marks the third confirmed case of rabies in cattle since March 2023.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health investigated to assess possible exposure to other animals on the farm. The rabid cow had been penned with a herd of approximately thirty cows. Although rabies is uncommon between cattle, the virus can spread through herds via saliva contact. The cattle will be confined and observed for signs of rabies. A skunk had been killed on the property not long before the rabid cow showed signs of rabies. Since skunks pose a threat for spreading the virus in Minnesota, all remaining animals on the farm will be observed.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommended that the attending veterinarian receive post-exposure treatment (PEP) because of the direct contact with the cow. The owner did not express having contact with the cow after first signs were reported, and PEP was not recommended. No other people were exposed.

Find information on rabies in animals and view a map of positive cases in Minnesota on the Board’s website.

If you have questions about suspected or confirmed rabies exposure to domestic animals, call 651-201-6808.

If you have questions concerning rabies exposure in people, please contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414.

All dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses should be currently vaccinated against the rabies virus. In the event an animal is exposed or potentially exposed, pets should receive a rabies vaccination booster within 72 hours of exposure.