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Wild animals found with rabies in public areas

Posted at 10:49 AM, Oct 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-22 19:47:24-04

The Pima County Health Department is looking for anyone who may have had physical contact with wild animals that tested positive for rabies in two separate cases. 

Aaron Pacheco, Emergency Preparedness and Communications Manager for the department, says a fox collected from the Loma Verde South Wash in Saguaro National Park tested positive for rabies. 

Pacheco says the fox was found on October 19 in the wash just east of the Loma Verde parking area near Cactus Forest Loop.

The animal had been reported to park officials after it acted aggressively toward the park's guests. 

In a second case this week, Pacheco says a bat found outside the Office Max at 9580 East 22nd Street also tested positive for rabies after being submitted for testing. 

The bat was found on October 13 at 10:30 a.m. 

Pacheco says anyone who visited Saguaro National Park, the Office Max or the nearby areas but did not have physical contact with the animals or their saliva are not at risk. 

In both cases, the animals were removed and did not pose a risk beyond the dates identified. 

Pacheco says because there is a possibility that the public may have had contact with the animals in each case before they were removed, anyone who may have encountered the specified animals on these dates should contact the Health Depart immediately at 520-724-7797. 

“In each of these situations the people who encountered these animals did exactly as we would hope,” said Dr. Carlos Perez-Velez, Deputy Chief Medical Director at the Pima County Health Department in a press release. “In both cases members of the public avoided these animals to the best of their abilities and notified staff who contacted the proper authorities. These actions prevented what could have been much more dangerous incidents.”

Pacheco says humans and pets can get rabies from direct physical contact such as a bite or scratch from an infected animal. 

The virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. Pacheco says it may take weeks to years for people to show symptoms after being infected. Once the someone starts developing symptoms, the person usually does not survive.

Health officials recommend the following steps to reduce the risk of rabies exposure for themselves, their children and pets:

•      Do not approach wild animals. Wild animals with rabies may seem unafraid of people. It's not normal for a wild animal to be friendly with people, so stay away from any animal that seems unafraid.

•      Talk to your children about avoiding unknown or wild animals. Children should tell an adult right away and the adult should call Pima Animal Care Center at (520) 724-5900.

•      Protect your pets.  If your cat or dog is not current on their rabies vaccinations, be sure to vaccinate them as soon as possible.

•      If you see a bat or any other wildlife acting oddly or on the ground, do not touch it. Stay away and immediately call the Pima Animal Care Center at(520) 724-5900.

•      If you have contact with an unknown animal, especially a wild animal, call the Health Department help line at 520-724-7797.