Animal health officials have reported a large increase in the number of rabies cases in animals in the state of Arkansas in the southern region of the United States (US). As of 24 June 2014, more than 100 rabies cases have been reported in 2014; this is almost double the normal figure for this time period. A total of 152 cases were reported for the whole of 2013 and 131 cases in 2012.
In Arkansas, skunks and bats are knows as the reservoir for rabies virus. Of the 103 cases, 86 have been confirmed in skunks. The peak time for rabies cases is March and April, with a smaller rise again in late summer and early autumn.
Officials are recommending that animal owners ensure that their animals/pets are vaccinated against rabies. Members of the public are being made aware of the growing number of rabies cases among terrestrial animals and have been advised to stay away from wildlife, especially those whose behavior is different from normal. Skunks and bats are nocturnal animals, so if they are out during the day, it may be a sign that they are rabid. Ensure that pets and children also stay away from bats and skunks during the day.
Advice for Travellers
Travellers must be aware that rabies virus circulates in terrestrial animals in much of the the US, (e.g. raccoons, bats and skunks) and they should avoid contact with wildlife. All animal bites should be reported and carefully assessed; post-exposure treatment is accessible.