Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pinal County Rabies Vaccination Clinics

The Pinal County Public Health Services District is issuing an advisory for animal rabies to all residents of Pinal County. On Jan. 7th, a coyote found in the eastern part of the county tested positive for rabies & on Jan. 11th, a skunk found in the Oracle area also tested positive. Both tests were performed & confirmed by the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory. These are the first two 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 & spinal cord of animals & humans. It is caused by a virus present in the saliva of infected animals & 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.

Pinal County offers rabies vaccination clinics for family pets. The following list is of the upcoming clinic sites & 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 & Control for more info concerning the rabies vaccination for pets & vaccination clinic times & 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 & eastern portions of the County have had the most activity. Rabies is found mainly in wild animals such as bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, bobcats & coyotes. Unvaccinated cats, dogs & livestock can also become infected with rabies if they are bitten by rabid wild animals. Rodents such as rats, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs & 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 & 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 & bats may be out during the day. Rabid animals may appear agitated & excited or paralyzed & 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 & Animal Control officials recommend the following precautions:

* Keep people & 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 Az. Game & Fish Dept.

* Vaccinate all dogs & 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 & 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 Dept. of Health Services at (602) 364-4562.