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Gray fox rabies activity quadrupled in some Arizona counties

Posted at 2:00 PM, Dec 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-14 08:42:52-05

The Arizona Department of Health Services says rabies activity in the state's gray fox populations has quadrupled in several counties. 

Data shows there are 24 rabid foxes this year, compared with six rabid foxes reported statewide last year. 

"If you do come into contact with an animal that's acting erratically or strange, make sure to call Animal Control or Game and Fish," said Director for the Arizona Department of Health Services Cara Christ.  

ABC15 got a unique look inside the state lab, where a sample of brain tissue is taken from the animal suspected of having rabies and tested.  

Six of the 24 cases were confirmed in the past two months. 

State health officials say an outbreak of fox rabies is occurring in the east-central part of Arizona near recreational hiking trails and camping areas in Maricopa and Pinal counties, which includes the Superstition Mountains Wilderness Area. 

Several foxes have been seen alongside trailheads and there's evidence the outbreak may be spreading to more urban areas. 

Rabies is spread by a bite or contact with saliva from the infected animal. Human cases are very rare, but death can come soon after symptoms.  

As for your animals, experts say they are no treatments for unvaccinated pets and that can mean a rapid downward spiral. 

"It's going to go through the nervous system, up to the spinal cord and it's going to then go to the brain stem where it's going to start to replicate," said Fitzpatrick.  

So far this year, rabid foxes have been identified in Cochise, Navajo, Pima and Santa Cruz counties and recently in Gila, Maricopa and Pinal counties.

Maricopa County Animal Care and Control is offering special pricing on rabies vaccinations for your pets this weekend.