A rabies alert has been issued after a woman hanging laundry in her back yard was bitten by a rabid skunk.

State officials said the woman did not see the skunk until it bit her ankle while she was standing at her clothesline. The incident happened on Nov. 1 in Mylo Park, a housing development that fronts old Route 22 in Cambria Township.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture office in Altoona is circulating a notice, titled “Rabies Alert in Cambria County,” and is urging families to have their pets examined.

Dr. Elizabeth Santini, a state health inspector, said it is not surprising when rabid animals find their way into residential developments.

“Raccoons, skunks and foxes are really adaptable animals, and they can do surprisingly well in residential areas,” she said. “People put their trash outside, and many feed their dogs and cats outside. That makes it easy for these other animals to survive.

“We warn people to not leave pet food outdoors, because that will attract these critters.”

Cambria County has ranked low in reports of rabid animals, with the Mylo Park skunk being only the third reported case so far in 2005.

Somerset County has seen 13 cases of rabies – 12 raccoons and one bat. Bedford County has reported 31 confirmed rabies cases, the highest in the state.

“Those figures don’t really reflect the actual numbers of rabid animals,” Santini said.

“The large numbers in Bedford are partly because of a lot of media coverage, so people are very aware of the signs of rabies and are turning in reports of animals that might be rabid.”

The unidentified Mylo Park victim is receiving treatment, which Santini said is not the excruciating abdominal injections of the past.

“Depending on the person, treatment now is usually injecting several places around the site of the bite wound, and then getting additional injections in other parts of the body,” she said. “It’s still uncomfortable, but not as painful as before.”

Pets in the Mylo Park area also may have been exposed. If they have been vaccinated, as Pennsylvania law requires, they are immune to rabies.

If in doubt, pet owners should consult a veterinarian. Otherwise, a pet could develop rabies and be a potential danger to others, Santini said.

Children should be educated about rabies and warned to stay away from animals that act abnormally. Santini recommends a Web site for children maintained by the federal Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov.

The number of rabies cases is expected to remain high through mid-November, when raccoons reduce their activity.

Wild animals with the disease exhibit symptoms such as staggering, salivating and acting boldly around people.

Susan Evans can be reached at 471-6778 or sevans@tribdem.com.

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