JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A cat in Boone County has tested positive for rabies, marking the 100th rabies case in the state so far in 2013.
Other rabies cases include 91 skunks, 3 bats, 1 cats, 2 dogs, 1 cow and 1 horse.
The Arkansas Health Department said in a press release it expects these numbers to increase through the rest of summer and into fall.
"Some of them [animals] may be tame or appear tame, you never know. So it's just best to keep your children and grandchildren away from the animals and try not to feed them. Let nature take care of itself," Sissy's Log Cabin manager Mark Sanders said.
"A lot of people wanna go, 'Oh, hey that's cute.' And they wanna go over there and kind of get close, but with any wild animal you wanna keep your distance. And the same goes for even dogs and cats so you know if it's not your dog or cat that's out there, you wanna keep your distance from an animal like that," Shaun Merrell, the facility director at Crowley's Ridge Nature Center, said.
Merrell said to also watch out for animals you do know, especially ones that spend a lot of time outside. "You don't know what's going on out there at night. So, you know, a skunk could come through and actually get in the pen and bite your dog and you not know it."
"Even though they're used to being around humans, they may carry diseases that you don't wanna take back to the house with you," Sanders said.
That's why it is important to have your pets vaccinated. Arkansas state law requires all cats and dogs receive a rabies vaccination, given by a licensed veterinarian, beginning at four months of age. The state also requires a booster shot one year after the first vaccine.
"It is things you gotta be careful about. You gotta train your kids and grandkids to protect them," Sanders said.
"You kind of wanna leave the wild animals in the wild," Merrell said.
Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the brains and spinal cord. If an animal infected with the virus bites or scratches you, it is likely you could contract it. Infected animals can also spread rabies if their spit touches broken skin or open wounds.
The Arkansas Department of Health said the first sign of rabies in an animal is usually a change in behavior. Rabid animals may attack people or other animals for no reason, or they may lose their fear of people and seem unnaturally friendly. Staggering, convulsions, choking, foaming at the mouth and paralysis are also signs. An animal usually dies within one week of contracting rabies.
If you think you have become exposed to an animal with rabies, the department said to wash your wound thoroughly and seek medical attention immediately. Also, you should contact your doctor and county health unit immediately to report the incident.
The department gave these tips to avoid rabies:
· Be sure your dogs, cats and ferrets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations
· Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals
· Keep family pets indoors at night
· Bat-proof your home or summer camp in the fall or winter (The majority of human rabies cases are caused by bat bites.)
· Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if any animal bites them
· Teach children to avoid wildlife, strays and all other animals they do not know well