COCHISE COUNTY, AZ — The Cochise County Sheriff's Office has issued a warning for people to be aware of rabid skunks.
According to the sheriff's office, two skunks have tested positive for rabies in the past three weeks, one near Benson and another south of Sierra Vista.
Officials say those with pets should make sure they are up to date on their rabies vaccination.
Rabies impacts skunks in two possible ways, called the 'furious' and 'dumb' forms. The former makes skunks particularly aggressive and causes the characteristic foaming around the mouth, and is most likely to lead to an infection-transmitting bite. The latter causes the skunk to display a complete lack of fear of humans or other animals and may appear disoriented.
Healthy skunks will typically act afraid of humans or pets and run away after shooting off a foul-smelling spray.
Skunks are one of the primary hosts for rabies in Arizona, according to the state department of health. The others, bats and foxes, carry their own strains of the infection, which can spread to other animals, including humans, pets and livestock.
Through May 10, the Arizona Department of Health Services has confirmed 52 cases of rabies in Arizona, 27 of which were found in skunks. Of those, 11 cases were in Santa Cruz County and 7 were in Cochise County.
About 30 people in Arizona are exposed to rabid animals each year, health officials said.
The sheriff's office says people who observe a skunk which may be rabid should call and report it.