In the past two months, three animals have tested positive for rabies virus in eastern Pinal County. In response to this rise in rabies cases, Pinal County’s Animal Care and Control Department has been hosting community meetings to educate the public about the importance of rabies vaccinations and answer any questions from residents. There has also been free rabies vaccination clinics scheduled for residents in specific areas of Pinal County.
Rabies is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord of animals and humans. It is caused by a virus present in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted to humans through contact with the live virus. Rabies is fatal to humans once symptoms appear. While human exposures to rabid animals are rare, family pets are more often exposed to wild animals, including wild animals that are rabid.
Vaccination against rabies is available through your veterinarian or Pinal County Animal Care and Control. This will prevent them from getting rabies if exposed to a rabid animal. Unfortunately, household pets that are not vaccinated against rabies need to be put to sleep after having an exposure to a wild animal. Rabies is found mainly in wild animals such as bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, bobcats and coyotes. Cats, dogs and livestock can also become infected with rabies if they are bitten by rabid wild animals and they have not been vaccinated.
Rodents such as rats, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs and squirrels are not likely to be infected with rabies. Wild animals exhibiting unusual behavior should be reported to local animal control officials. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to avoid touching, handling or adopting wild or stray animals. The first sign of rabies is usually a change in the animal’s behavior. Animals may act more aggressive or more tame than usual. Animals usually active at night such as skunks, foxes and bats may be out during the day. Rabid animals may appear agitated and excited or paralyzed and frightened. Sometimes, rabid animals do not show any signs of illness before death from rabies. That is why contact with wild animals should always be avoided. Animal Care and Control recommends the following precautions:
Keep people and pets away from wild animals. Do not pick up, touch, or feed wild or unfamiliar animals, especially sick or wounded ones. If someone has been bitten or scratched, or has had contact with the animal, report it immediately to animal control or health officials.
Do not “rescue” seemingly abandoned young wild animals. Usually, the mother will return. If the mother is dead or has not returned in many hours, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies. Pets should be kept in a fenced yard.
Take precautions when camping, hunting or fishing. Avoid sleeping on the open ground without the protection of a closed tent or camper. Keep pets on a leash and do not allow them to wander.
Do not disturb roosting bats. If you find a bat on the ground, don’t touch it. Report the bat and its location to your local animal control officer or health department. Place a box over the bat to contain it. Be careful not to damage the bat in any way since it must be intact for rabies testing.