LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — More than 100 cases of rabies have been confirmed in Arkansas so far this year with a second “peak” season for the disease on the horizon, according to state health and animal science officials.
“The peak time for rabies cases is March and April, with a smaller rise again in late summer and early fall,” according to Arkansas Public Health Veterinarian Susan Weinstein.
The Arkansas Department of Health’s most recent report shows 105 confirmed rabies cases thus far in 2014, with 26 of the cases in Pulaski County, the state’s most populous county, and 13 in neighboring Lonoke County.
Of the number, 88 cases were confirmed in skunks and 12 in bats. There have been two cases in cats, and one each in cattle, foxes and dogs.
“Skunks and bats are the reservoir” for the rabies virus, Weinstein said.
Both are primarily nocturnal, and a warning sign that a skunk or bat is infected is seeing one during the day, according to the Health Department.
The increase in the number of confirmed cases is likely due to a greater awareness of rabies symptoms in animals, according to both Weinstein and Tom Troxel, associate head of animal science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
There were a record 152 cases in the state during 2013, up from 131 in 2012 and 60 in 2011, according to records on the Health Department’s website.
The state first surpassed 100 rabies cases with 131 in 2002, but had ranged from 34 to 60 from 2003 through 2011.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system and is considered one of the most infectious diseases. The disease is fatal, but can be prevented with a series of injections. However, it cannot be treated once symptoms appear.
Symptoms usually appear three to eight weeks after exposure and include pain, burning, and numbness at the site of infection. Victims complain of headaches, inability to sleep, irritability, muscle spasms of the throat and difficulty swallowing.
Loss of ability to control one’s movements occurs, followed by delirium, coma, and death in about one to three weeks, according the Health Department’s website.
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