After two foxes tested positive for rabies at the end of December, the Flagstaff Police Department reported another bite in the Flagstaff area with multiple other species testing positive in the city of Flagstaff area.
There have now been three reported human infections in the county in the past month, according to Cory Runge, spokesperson at the Flagstaff Police Department.
“If a person is infected and they don’t immediately get treatment, it can be fatal,” Runge said. “That’s why we’re so concerned about it. We’re trying to preserve life.”
Coconino County has seen a large spike in reports of rabies in wild animal populations, according to public data from the Arizona Department of Health Services. The state's health department data shows that the amount of confirmed rabies cases in animals has jumped from just three animals confirmed in 2017 to 32 cases in 2018.
The number of animals that tested positive for rabies in December has still not been reported by the state's health department.
The Flagstaff police have reported seeing javelinas, coyotes, foxes and a skunk test positive for rabies. The city's animal control recently caught another species suspected of being infected, Runge said.
“We’re reaching out to partnering agencies for what we can do to slow the spread of this disease,” Runge said.
In late December, the Coconino County Public Health and Safety District reported that two foxes had attacked several people in both the areas of the Continental Country Club and Mars Hills. All people attacked were taken in for treatment, according to the attending agencies.
Foxes are a common host for the virus, according to data from the state's health department. The state department also listed data showing that foxes have also been the highest contributors to confirmed rabies accounts this year.
There have been 52 foxes confirmed with rabies throughout the state, close to half of which came from Coconino County. Last year, there were only 34 confirmed cases and 2 in Coconino County, according to data from the state's health department.
Bites are just one way that the disease spreads, Runge explained.
"If prey animals are infected, it can spread to the predator animals who prey on that species," Runge said.
Runge added that they are unsure about why the disease is spreading so significantly. He added that the police department wants to ensure that people and their pets are safe.
Runge also said that animals that might be staggering when walking should be considered suspicious.
“If they’re out during the day, foxes, skunks, typical nighttime animals, that you’re not used to seeing during the day, we’d like to know about it,” Runge said. “If it’s in city limits, or if it’s in the county, call animal control and they can go investigate it.”
Trish Lees, spokesperson for the Coconino County Public Health District, referred to several Arizona Department of Health Services suggestions for preventing and avoiding the risk of rabies infection.
- Report all bites and scratches to animal control or the Office of Infectious Disease Services.
- Keep all people and pets away from wild animals.
- Vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies.
- Keep pets on a leash or in a fenced yard.
- Teach children not to handle or touch sick or injured animals, including bats.
- Take precautions when camping, hunting or fishing. Avoid sleeping on the open ground without the protection of a closed tent or camper.