Public Health officials in Pinal and Maricopa Counties said the Arizona Department of Health Services State Public Health Laboratory has confirmed at least two cases of rabies from animals near the Superstition Mountains.
Pinal County Epidemiologist Graham Briggs said, “From the reports we have been getting from hikers in the area, it looks like we have an increase of rabies in wild animals. Two of the cases have been confirmed, but park officials have reported seeing dead animals along with aggressive animals on the trail.
Numbers show Pinal County now has three confirmed rabies cases in 2017. They had one case in 2016, and no cases in 2015.
“Those numbers do get our attention but at the same time, too, we’re not looking at anything above 10 cases or 20 cases,” said Joe Pyritz, who is the Public Information Officer for Pinal County.
The Superstition Mountains Wildness area — which includes Lost Dutchman State Park, the First Water Trail and the Tonto National Forest — is a popular hiking destination, especially during the cooler Arizona months.
Due to the recent discovery, signs have been posted warning hikers and campers of the rabies cases.
Pinal County Animal Care and Control says hikers should be cautious when bringing their pets to the trails.
“The first thing is to make sure your pets are properly vaccinated,” a PCACC spokesperson said. “The other is not to let them roam free while you are hiking, always have been on a leash.”
Facts about Rabies
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. If you feel you have been exposed to an animal with rabies, see a doctor immediately.
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 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.
The British Journal Editors and Wire Services