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Rabies

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Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, causing encephalitis. It is always fatal once symptoms appear. Rabies can be prevented in persons who have come into contact or have been bitten by wild animals through prompt administration of anti-rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin. Hundreds of rabies post exposure prophylactic treatments are initiated annually in Arizona to prevent rabies from developing after exposure.

In Arizona, the principal rabies hosts are bats, skunks, and foxes. These animals carry their own distinct rabies virus variants or "strains". When rabies activity within these animal groups increases, rabies can "spillover" into other mammal species, such as bobcats, coyotes, javelina, cats, dogs, horses, cows, etc. Every year, approximately 30 people are exposed to rabid animals in Arizona. People who are exposed must receive vaccine and anti-rabies serum treatment to prevent infection.

In Arizona, bats present the most common source of rabies exposures to humans because rabid bats often fall to the ground where they are easily accessible to people and pets. Bats are generally not aggressive. Exposure to rabid bats usually occurs when people pick up or handle a sick or dead bat. Other rabies exposures occur when people try to approach or feed wild animals, or in some cases, are attacked by rabid animals such as foxes, bobcats, and skunks. Most rabies exposures can be avoided by simply leaving bats and other wild animals alone. The last documented human rabies death in Arizona was in 1981.

All bite or contact exposures should be reported immediately to local animal control or health officials.

Reports of suspect rabies infection in livestock and the quarantine of livestock that bite humans should be handled by the Arizona State Veterinarian's office in Phoenix: (602) 542-4293.

For more information on rabies, see the fly-out links on the left.

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