Health Department issues rabies warning in Arizona

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Warning to get dogs vaccinated

PHOENIX - The following is a release from the Arizona Department of Health Services:

Arizona is on track this year to break the state's annual record number of rabies cases. Since January, Arizona State Health Laboratory has confirmed rabies in 162 animals; 38 humans and 119 pets were exposed to these rabid animals. Many of these exposures occurred within the last few weeks. In 2005, 169 animals tested positive for rabies.

Just this week, three wild animals tested positive from Yavapai and Coconino counties and four more in Southern Arizona.A rabid fox attacked a hiker on a trail near Granite Mountain, northwest of Prescott.The fox also bit an animal control officer.Two animals from the Flagstaff area tested positive for rabies including a striped skunk from the east side of Flagstaff and a grey fox from the Mount Elden area north of Flagstaff. There were no human or pet exposures reported for either of these animals. Last week, the state also had the first positive rabies test on a pet dog since 2002. The dog was a prized hunting coon hound from Pima County, which was not vaccinated for rabies and had to be put down.Three of the dog's owners are undergoing preventative rabies vaccination. The other rabid animals from southern Arizona this week were two skunks from Tucson and one fox from Catalina Foothills in Pima County.

The following suggestions can help reduce rabies exposure:

Dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies and receive the appropriate boosters. The rabies vaccination of dogs and cats should be given by a veterinarian at 3 months of age, one year later, and then once every three years.

Pets should be kept in a fenced in yard to prevent contact with wild animals. Do not let your pets roam off leash when out in the wilderness.

Never touch or play with an animal that looks sick. Animals with rabies show changes in behavior; wild animals can become more tame, showing no fear of humans or they may act more aggressively.

Other symptoms may include difficulty walking, foaming at the mouth, the inability to swallow the saliva, seizures and sudden death.

Bats that are found on the ground may be sick with rabies. If you find a bat on the ground, don't touch it. Place a box over the bat to contain it.

If you come across an animal displaying these symptoms, report it to wildlife officials or local animal control immediately. DO NOT attempt to handle the animal yourself.

If bitten or scratched by a wild animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek immediate medical attention.

For more information about rabies, call your local health department or the ADHS Vector-Borne & Zoonotic Disease Section at (602) 364-4562.