Cat tests positive for rabies in Cochise County: Residents urged to vaccinate pets and livestock

By Emily Ellis 12 hrs ago


A domestic cat in the Willcox area tested positive for rabies last month, reported the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, and officials are encouraging pet and livestock owners to make sure their animals have been vaccinated.

The cat, which was unvaccinated, is one of eight animal animals in the county that have tested positive for rabies since January, including six skunks and one fox, according to data from the Arizona Department of Health (ADHS).

The early cases could be indicative of a bad year for the disease, said CCSO spokeswoman Carol Capas.

County animal control officers are currently working with the United States Department of Agriculture to increase rabies surveillance efforts by submitting more specimens for analysis, including roadkill, said Capas. However, the most important thing residents can do to prevent the spread of rabies is ensure that their animals are current on their vaccinations.

While county ordinances require that dog owners vaccinate their pets against rabies, it is also essential to vaccinate cats, livestock, and other pets, Capas said.

“Like the cat in Willcox, it had contact with humans, and it did have contact with other livestock. It’s a communicable disease so you have to be careful,” Capas said.

While the people and animals exposed to the cat when it was sick weren’t infected, an unvaccinated pet can put a whole household in danger, she said.

“We want to make sure that people understand to be proactive rather than reactive,” Capas said.

As people begin to spend more time outdoors in the warmer weather and the chances of encounters with wildlife increase, residents should be extra cautious, Capas said.

“Please do not feed wild animals, because they could have the rabies virus and could potentially attack,” she said.

Leaving food outside for your own pets, or neighborhood strays, could also attract rabid animals to your home, she said.

Symptoms of rabies in wildlife and domesticated animals include instability, moving in circles, salivating heavily, being extremely thirsty, acting aggressively in the later stages of the disease, and other erratic behavior, said Mark Hart, a public information officer with Arizona Game and Fish.

Rabies cases tend to fluctuate in Arizona, making it hard to predict how many cases different counties will see in a given year or month, Hart said.

“It’s hard to generalize about rabies because, while it’s always present in the wildlife population, the number of cases goes up and down year to year,” said Hart. “But it’s always present.”

Cochise County is in the “lead” so far for rabies cases in Arizona for 2019, Hart said. Last year, Cochise County had a total of 35 rabies cases, with Pima reporting the most cases in the state for 2018 with 40, according to data from the ADHS.

Rabies exposure can come from contact with saliva, brain tissue or spinal fluid, Capas said, even after the animal is dead.

The incubation period for rabies — meaning the amount of time it takes for symptoms to appear — can vary widely depending on the species, ranging from days to months, which is why it is so important to alert authorities as soon as exposure is suspected, Capas said.

To report a rabid animal, call the CCSO at (520) 432-9500, AGFD at (602) 942-3000, or your local police department.



As published in the Herald Review, 5 March