BISBEE — Cochise County has seen more cases of rabies in wild animals than any other county in the state this year and those who have not taken their pets for inoculations should consider making the appointments, officials said.

County Public Information Officer Camila Rochin stated in a press release, “As we continue through the nearing end of summer, pet and livestock owners are reminded to get their animals vaccinated against rabies to help keep them safe from wildlife attacks.”

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 10 wild animals in the county have been tested and found to be infected with rabies since the start of the year. Among the species tested were bats, skunks, fox, coatis and raccoons. The predominant infected species were skunks. Last year, the county had 18 cases.

Bats present the most common source of rabies exposure to humans because rabid bats often fall to the ground where they are easily accessible to people and pets, notes ADHS. Exposure to rabid bats usually occurs when people or pets pick up or handle a sick or dead bat. Other rabies exposures occur when trying to approach or feed wild animals, or in some cases, attacks by rabid animals such as foxes, bobcats and skunks.

ADHS states when rabies activity in bats increases, rabies can “spill over” into other animals such as bobcats, coyotes, javelina, cats, dogs and even horses and cows. In animals, the virus is almost 100% fatal once symptoms start.

Rabies is a fatal, but preventable disease often transmitted through scratches, abrasions or open wounds that are exposed to a rabid animal’s saliva.

ADHS recommends vaccinations to reduce transmission to protect pets and livestock.

It also recommends residents steer clear from leaving any pet food or water outside near homes that can attract wildlife and put pets at risk.

People should be wary of animals that exhibit unusual activity, such as disorientation, excessive salivation and aggression. If people see such behavior, they should call the Sheriff’s Office and stay away from the animal.

If a person is bitten by an infected animal, wash the area with soap and water then seek immediate medical treatment. People who are exposed may develop flulike symptoms along with anxiety, confusion and aggression in as little as a few days and must receive a vaccine and anti-rabies serum treatment to prevent infection. Wash pet wounds the same way, but wear gloves.