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Sep 24, 2013 8:43 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Pima County confirms 20 rabies cases in wild animals so far in 2013

TUCSON - Pima County has confirmed 20 separate cases of rabies in wild animals so far this year.

The county has tested and confirmed 14 bats, five skunks and one bobcat have tested positive for rabies. So far, no human cases have been confirmed, but health officials say that doesn't necessarily mean there is no danger.

"In the past, people have associated rabies with pet dogs and cats such as Old Yeller... But over the years because of rabies vaccination requirements for pets, it's shifted now where people are exposed more often through wild animals," said Michael Acoba, the Epidemiology Program Manager at the Pima County Health Department.

Some of the prime carriers of rabies locally include skunks, bobcats, javelina and bats -- and rabies untreated in humans is deadly.

Kim Janes of the Pima Animal Care Center said that county workers have found rabid animals in a variety of places.

"People have reported and we've found bats even in hospital closets so they can get into any of our places and be careful to protect our homes so that wild animals can't get in," Janes said.

More often than not, Acoba said that its people's pets that act as buffer between humans and the rapid wildlife.

"So if we create a zone of vaccinated pets, that will help prevent rabies from reaching the human population," Acoba said.

Once a person starts developing symptoms of rabies, it's uncommon for them to survive.

Some early signs of rabies in humans include a headache, high temperature, irritability and itching, eventually making way for paralysis, throat spasms, convulsions and ultimately, death.

If you come across an animal exhibiting strange behavior, you can call the Pima Animal Care Center for assistance at 520-243-5900

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