Rabies advisory in southern Arizona

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- There is a rabies advisory for Pima and Santa Cruz counties in southern Arizona following an increase in rabid skunks.

The Arizona departments of Health Services, Agriculture and Game and Fish said 13 rabid skunks have been identified in the two counties since the beginning of this year.

Seventeen rabid skunks were identified in the two areas in all of last year.

Rabies is found mainly in wild animals such as bats, skunks, foxes, bobcats and coyotes. Rodents such as rats, mice and squirrels aren't likely to be infected with rabies.

The first sign of rabies is usually a change in the animal's normal behavior.

Authorities said the greatest danger to people is through their pets and livestock.

"If the family pet, horse or livestock is bitten by a rabid animal, it is at risk of catching the virus if it isn't up to date on its vaccinations," said Perry Durham, D.V.M., state veterinarian. "Unfortunately if a wild animal bites a family pet that hasn't been vaccinated, the pet will have to be quarantined, perhaps euthanized. Rabies vaccinations will protect your pet and your family from the possibility of the disease."

People and animals can get rabies if they are bitten by a rabid animal or exposed to a rabid animal's brain or spinal fluid, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

During hunting season, hunters should wear gloves and protective eyewear when field dressing game to prevent the spread of many diseases.

People who are bitten or otherwise exposed to a potentially rabid animal should contact their health care provider immediately to get preventive medication. While rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, authorities said medication can prevent the symptoms.

Outdoors enthusiasts who see wild animals acting out of the ordinary or see a large number of dead skunks or foxes should notify local animal control or Game and Fish (24-hour dispatch line: 623-236-7201).