FLORENCE – The Pinal County Public Health Services District is issuing an advisory for animal rabies to all residents of Pinal County. On January 7, 2008 a coyote found in the eastern part of the county tested positive for rabies. On January 11, a skunk found in the Oracle area also tested positive. Both tests were performed and confirmed by the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory. These are the first and second animals to test positive in Pinal County in 2008. Following investigations by public health staff, no human exposures were identified.
The identification of rabid animals statewide serves as a reminder of the potential for rabies in wild animals in Arizona. 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. There have been no documented cases of human rabies in Pinal County for decades.
While human exposures to rabid animals are rare, family pets are more often exposed to wild animals, including wild animals that are rabid. Pets should be vaccinated against rabies by a local veterinarian or Pinal County Animal Care and Control. The rabies vaccine will prevent a pet from getting rabies if exposed to a rabid animal. Unfortunately, household pets are often not vaccinated against rabies and need to be put to sleep after having an exposure to a wild animal.
"When the family dog gets into a fight with a skunk or the cat brings a bat home, that family pet is at risk of getting rabies," said Tom Schryer, Director, Pinal County Public Health. "We need to consider this risk in public health. If it is possible that the family pet could get rabies and give it to a family member, animal care and control agencies have no choice but to remove the pet from the home. Unfortunately, the majority of household pets identified with exposures to rabid animals in 2007 were not vaccinated and needed to be put to sleep. A simple shot at the vet's office could have protected these animals."
Pinal County offers rabies vaccination clinics for family pets. Following is a list of upcoming clinic sites and times: February 2 10:00 to 2:00 Casa Grande - Burris Park
February 2 10:00 to 2:00 Coolidge City Park
February 9 9:00 to 11:00 Casa Grande West - 84 & Ash
February 9 1:00 to 3:00 County Complex in Maricopa
February 9 10:00 to 2:00 San Manuel County Complex
March 1 9:00 to 11:00 Florence Town Park
March 1 2:00 to 4:00 Apache Junction County Complex
March 1 1:00 to 3:00 Queen Creek Johnson Ranch Fire
March 1 10:00 to 1:00 Oracle Justice Court/Sheriff Station
March 8 9:00 to 11:00 Mammoth Lionel Ruiz Park
March 8 1:00 to 3:00 Kearny Pioneer Park
Contact Pinal County Animal Care and Control for more information concerning the rabies vaccination for pets and vaccination clinic times and locations at (520) 509-3555 or toll free at (888) 431-1311.
While rabies can occur in animals anywhere in the county, in the last few years the southern and eastern portions of the County have had the most activity. Rabies is found mainly in wild animals such as bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, bobcats and coyotes. Unvaccinated cats, dogs and livestock can also become infected with rabies if they are bitten by rabid wild animals. 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. Public Health and Animal Control officials recommend 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.
For more information about rabies, call the Pinal County Public Health Services District at (520) 866-7347, or the Arizona Department of Health Services at (602) 364-4562.