Coconino County recommends taking precautions against rabies

Coconino County Health and Human Services (CCHHS) has received several reports of potential and confirmed human and domestic animal exposures to rabid wildlife.

A recent confirmed exposure occurred near Jacob Lake, southeast of Fredonia, Arizona. An individual and a dog encountered a bat that subsequently tested positive for rabies. The individual is receiving rabies prophylaxis treatment and the vaccinated dog has been placed in a 10-day at-home quarantine for observation.

A potential rabies exposure occurred in a Flagstaff neighborhood where two dogs interacted with a dead skunk found in the dogs’ pen. As a result, the skunk is being tested for rabies to confirm if the dogs were exposed to the rabies virus. Test results are pending.

An additional potential exposure involved a Flagstaff resident and two cats that were exposed to a bat suspected to have rabies. Test results in this case are also pending.

CCHHS is reminding individuals to use caution to protect against rabies exposure when hiking, camping or in situation where wildlife may be present. Health officials recommend the following precautions to protect against rabies:

Avoid wildlife, especially those exhibiting unusual wildlife behaviors which can include; showing no fear of humans, aggressive behavior, staggering and/or acting sickly, and nocturnal mammals active during daytime.

Keep all pets current on vaccinations and obey leash laws.

Always keep pets away from wild animals.

Never pick up, touch, or feed wild or unfamiliar animals, even if they do not appear sick or aggressive.

Report any wild animals exhibiting erratic or aggressive behavior.

Seek immediate medical attention if bitten by or when there is direct contact with a wild animal.

Pet owners should seek medical care from their veterinarian if their pet is bitten by wildlife.

Rabies is a virus spread by the bite of an infected animal or direct contact with the saliva of an infected animal (such as via a scratch or tear in the skin). In Arizona, bats, skunks, and foxes are the main animal sources of rabies. Rabies causes severe damage to the central nervous system and usually leads to death once symptoms appear. However, effects of the virus are preventable if proper medical treatment is obtained within the proper timeframe.

Human exposures to rabid animals are usually rare, but domestic animals, such as cats and dogs often come into contact with wild animals and are at an increased risk. Routine rabies vaccination will help protect your pet against rabies.

Interactions with a bat or a bat found in a home should be reported to the Coconino County Health and Human Services Animal Management Program at 928-679-8756. Unusual wildlife sightings or behavior should also be reported. To report an emergency involving wildlife, call 911.

More information on rabies is available at www.azhealth.gov/rabies.

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