Phoenix. -- As of Nov. 7, with nearly two months left in the year, the the Arizona Department of Health Services already reports a record-breaking year for rabies cases.
-- As of Nov. 7, with nearly two months left in the year, the the Arizona Department of Health Services already reports a record-breaking year for rabies cases.
Since January, the state's laboratory confirmed 162 cases in animals, 38 cases in humans and 119 cases of pet exposure to rabid animals.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallied 159 cases of rabies in Arizona, with all occurring in wild animals -- primarily bats. That was nearly a 14 percent increase from the 140 cases in 2006, but the ADHS says 2006 figures were down from the 169 cases confirmed in 2005.
Texas led the nation last year in rabies cases with 969, followed by Virginia with 730 and New York with 512. Maryland reported 431 cases last year, according to the CDC.
The increase in Arizona is being attributed to three factors, says Laura Oxley, ADHS spokeswoman. First, surveillance is better, and authorities believe there aren't more cases per se, but more are being reported. Second, rabies is a cyclical disease and often goes through high and low levels, Oxley says. Lastly, Arizona still is a developing state and, as population increases and residential communities spread out, people and pets are closer to wild-animal habitats.
To help combat the spread of rabies, the ADHS issued a warning and tips to reduce exposure, including keeping pets vaccinated, keeping away from animals that appear to be sick and keeping pets fenced or contained to reduce their contact with wild animals.