Maricopa County public health officials see spike in rabies cases

Posted: Updated:
(Source: Arizona Game & Fish) (Source: Arizona Game & Fish)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: Arizona Game & Fish) (Source: Arizona Game & Fish)
(Source: Arizona Game & Fish) (Source: Arizona Game & Fish)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

A recent spike in rabies cases has Maricopa County health officials warning the public to not touch wild animals and make sure their dogs, and cats are up-to-date with the rabies vaccine.

Seven wild animals have tested positive for rabies so far this year, including five bats, one bobcat and one fox. All of them are dead and not a threat to the public. 

[RAW VIDEO: Bat cave in Phoenix]

That’s double the number of rabid animals usually recorded each year and there are still four months left to go for 2017. Usually the health department records 3 to 4 per year.

“We have no idea why there’s a little bit of an increase,” said Craig Levy, an epizoologist for the health department.

The last three cases involved Mexican free-tailed bats, the most popular bat species in Arizona. Those rabid bats were found in parts of Tempe, Gilbert and Phoenix in July and August.

[RELATED: County health officials warn of increase in rabies cases in animals]

Two of those cases involved a dog and cat putting a rabid bat in their mouth. The other, a woman who swatted at one while she was at work.

Luckily, none of the people or pets exposed to rabies turned fatal.

"Rabies is caused by a virus that infects the central nervous system, including spinal cord and brain," said Levy.

Levy’s biggest concern is that the worst is yet to come since the next two months since it’s the bats’ migration season.

“They stop in a lot of weird places along the way where pets and people can find them,” said Levy.

If you find a bat on the ground, Levy said it’s likely sick. He stressed to leave it alone and call animal control if it doesn’t leave on its own.

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