Feb 14, 2014 12:03 PM

Rabies on the rise in Santa Cruz County

The state issued a warning for Santa Cruz and Pima counties on Tuesday, citing a marked increase in rabid skunks in the first weeks of 2014.
In Santa Cruz County, 23 rabies cases were reported in 2013 and so far in 2014, with 19 of those cases reported since November, according to Lt. Jose Peña, head of the county's Animal Control Services Department.
More than half of the cases were reported in Tubac, while three were reported in Rio Rico, two each in Sonoita and Patagonia Estates, and one each in Patagonia and Nogales, Peña told the members of the County Board of Supervisors during their regular meeting Wednesday.
State officials told Peña they are "very worried about the situation," particularly with summer on the way, which could make the situation "a lot worse," he said.
"Right now, Tubac is really getting most of them, but it seems like it's coming down through the Rio Rico area," he said.
In the Arizona Department of Health Services advisory issued this week, state veterinarian Perry Durham told residents of Santa Cruz and Pima counties: "If the family pet, horse or livestock is bitten by a rabid animal, it is at risk of catching the virus if it isn't up to date on its vaccinations.
"Unfortunately if a wild animal bites a family pet that hasn't been vaccinated, the pet will have to be quarantined, perhaps euthanized," Durham said.
The rabies virus attacks the nervous system and humans and animals can be infected if they are bitten by a rabid animal or come into contact with an infected animal's brain or spinal fluid, according to the advisory.
Residents should avoid touching wild animals, vaccinate pets and livestock, and call the county health department if bitten. Hunters should wear gloves and protective eyewear when field dressing animals.
Rabies is almost always fatal when symptoms begin, but preventive medicine can stop symptoms.
Santa Cruz Animal Control can be reached at (520) 761-7860. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has a 24-hour dispatch line at (623) 236-7201.


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