Skunks test positive for rabies in Flagstaff's Greenlaw, Coconino Estates areas

Coconino County Health and Human Services officials have confirmed several skunks found in the Greenlaw and Coconino Estates areas tested positive for rabies.

One human exposure was reported and the individual is receiving Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment.

The county warns that rabies is a deadly disease and urges people to use caution when hiking, camping, or when wildlife may be present.

CCHHS and City of Flagstaff Animal Control say the following precautions are recommended to protect yourself against rabies:

  • Avoid wildlife, especially those exhibiting unusual wildlife behaviors which can include; showing no fear of humans, aggressive behavior, staggering and/or acting sickly, and nocturnal mammals active during daytime.
  • Keep all pets current on vaccinations and obey leash laws.
  • Always keep pets away from wild animals.
  • Never pick up, touch, or feed wild or unfamiliar animals, even if they do not appear sick or aggressive.
  • Do not pick up dead animals that do not have an obvious cause of death such as a car.  If you find a dead skunk or other animal in your yard leave it and report it.
  • Report any wild animals exhibiting erratic or aggressive behavior.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if bitten by or when there is direct contact with a wild animal.
  • Pet owners should seek medical care from a veterinarian if their pet is bitten by wildlife.

"Rabies is a virus spread by the bite of an infected animal or direct contact with the saliva of an infected animal. In Arizona, bats, skunks, and foxes are the main animal sources of rabies. Rabies causes severe damage to the central nervous system and usually leads to death once symptoms appear. However, effects of the virus are preventable if proper medical treatment is obtained within the proper timeframe," stated Sgt. C. Odis Brockman of the Flagstaff Police Department.

MORE: Coconino County Public Health Services District's wildlife information: skunks

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the first symptoms of rabies may be similar to the flu, including weakness, discomfort, fever, or headache. The symptoms may last for days.

"There may be also discomfort or a prickling or itching sensation at the site of the bite, progressing within days to acute symptoms of cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, and agitation. As the disease progresses, the person may experience delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), and insomnia. The acute period of disease typically ends after 2 to 10 days. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive."

striped skunk file photo

The Striped skunk is native to southern Canada, the United States and northern Mexico. (File photo by: Philippe Clément/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

In animals, the signs and symptoms can vary, but are often similar to those in humans.

"The first symptoms of rabies may be nonspecific and include lethargy, fever, vomiting, and anorexia. Signs progress within days to cerebral dysfunction, cranial nerve dysfunction, ataxia, weakness, paralysis, seizures, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, abnormal behavior, aggression, and/or self-mutilation."

MORE: CDC rabies facts, resources, prevention

If you see any unusual wildlife behavior within city limits, call FPD at 928-774-1414. Outside city limits, call CCHHS' Animal Management Program at 928-679-8756. Call 911 to report an emergency involving wildlife.

"Interactions with a bat or a bat found in the home should also be reported," added Brockman.

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