Every year we get reports of wild animals with bizarre behaviors like approaching people rather than running away, charging vehicles, latching on to arms of joggers and refusing to let go, even walking into a bar. In many cases, these animals are found to be rabid. Bats are usually our most frequent reservoirs for rabies in AZ… but we also see rabies in skunks and foxes. Our state lab does a great job of testing animals for rabies and getting rapid results back to local health departments and healthcare providers to coordinate treatment when someone has been exposed to the rabid animal.
Last year 60 animals tested positive for rabies in Arizona, including 43 bats. This year 14 animals have tested positive for rabies, half of them bats. Almost half were identified in the first week of May, so our rabies season is definitely underway. We usually see an increase in rabid bats between March and October, so now is a good time to remind people, especially kids, to leave bats and other wild animals alone.
While rabies is 100% fatal disease once symptoms appear (actually 2 people have lived, ever) it can be treated if people seek healthcare as soon as they have come into contact or are bitten by a suspect animal. We’ve got lots of resources to help local health departments and providers make decisions about positional rabies exposures, including a rabies control and bite management manual and a rabies risk assessment, which can help providers determine whether someone should receive rabies post-exposure treatment.