Last week’s case of a rabid squirrel that bit two eastern Iowans is highly rare, according to an official with the Iowa Department of Public Health. There have only been two other rabid squirrel cases nationwide in the past decade. Dr. Ann Garvey, a public health veterinarian, says it’s almost unheard-of for squirrels to go on the attack.
Garvey says, "We did have a squirrel that was found to be positive and that’s very unusual here in Iowa and across the U.S." The bushy-tailed animal nipped a woman on the foot last Friday in Iowa City. The woman managed to capture the squirrel in her garage, called animal control and then the squirrel bit the responding officer, too.
The squirrel was displaying some of the obvious signs of rabies — acting lethargic one moment and attacking the next. Garvey says it was taken to the Iowa Hygienic Laboratory and tested positive for rabies. She says, "It is very rare but we do know that all mammals can be infected with rabies so we definitely know it’s possible and we like to remind folks to take precautions." No matter how cute and cuddly they may appear to be, Garvey says wild animals are still wild and can pose a threat.
"We really want people to enjoy wildlife from afar," Garvey says. "If animals are sick or hurt, it’s not in the best interest of the animals or really for the human’s health to intervene." Based on the strain of rabies, she says the squirrel likely was bitten by a bat.