RUSSELL -- Russell County has had three confirmed cases of rabies in skunks so far this year, and health officials say prevalence could increase through the summer.

It’s important for all western Kansas residents to make sure their pets, horses and livestock are up to date on any needed vaccinations, said Paula Bitter, the county health administrator.

The most recent case of a rabid skunk was confirmed just within the last week.

Rabies can cause animals to behave aggressively or become disoriented. The disease affects the central nervous system and also can cause animals to become paralyzed or lose control of their bodies. Rabies can be spread to humans, and residents should never approach a suspicious animal, she said.

“Don’t try to take care of it yourself,” Bitter said. “Call a professional, law enforcement or animal control. If they do want to test the skunk, they have to have the brain matter.”

A case of rabies also recently has been confirmed in a horse in Greeley County.