Officials warned residents in Little Falls, Minn., to keep their children away from wild animals this week after a skunk tested positive for rabies.
Authorities initiated testing after the rabid skunk bit a toddler on the face and inside his mouth Tuesday while he was at a residential daycare facility. The animal was shot on-sight by the owner of the home, The Associated Press reports.
The Morrison County Sheriff's Office said the 5-month-old boy was sitting in a child seat alongside several other children in an outdoor play area when the rabid skunk attacked, according to local TV station Kare 11. The day care provider reportedly had her back turned for a moment when the abnormally large skunk approached the toddler and began to bite and scratch him.
By the time she reacted, hearing the 5-month-old's screams, the skunk had already retreated. At that point, her husband retrieved a gun from the house and killed the animal as it neared a shed on the property. After being transported to a local veterinary clinic, the skunk was sent to the University of Minnesota for rabies testing.
Before receiving the positive test result, doctors preemptively treated the 5-month-old for rabies.
The alarming incident, which Sheriff Michel Wetzel labeled an "extremely rare occurrence," follows recent reports of rabid animals in St. Cloud, which is located about 30 miles south of where the toddler was bitten.
Though Wetzel admitted there might be a "little outbreak" of rabies, he said the public shouldn't panic, according to CBS affiliate WCCO.
A bite can transmit rabies from an animal to a human via the infected animal's saliva. While the viral disease can be deadly, especially for animals, humans can be effectively treated with a series of post-exposure vaccinations.
Minnesota's Department of Health recommends that any wild animal that bites a person be captured, euthanized and tested for rabies.