Drought increases rabies risk for Bay Area pets

Tuesday, June 9, 2015
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Health officials issued a warning Tuesday saying that the drought could put you and your pets at a greater risk for rabies.

SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Health officials issued a warning this week saying the California drought could put you and your pets at a greater risk for rabies.

Pet owner Jonathan Huddleston said he's seen animals that could carries rabies. He told ABC7 News, "There was a drainage grate and some raccoons were passing by underneath there. They travel."

It is believed the drought is drying up creeks, forcing wildlife to travel toward human populated areas in search of water.

San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow, M.D., told ABC7 News, "Rabies exists in this county, in the wildlife population: in the skunks, in the bats, in the foxes, the raccoons."

Last year, the San Mateo Public Health Department had 250 potential rabies cases and analyzed samples of some of the animals' brains at their lab for positive signs.

This year the health department is expecting a spike in the number of possible cases, so it's encouraging people to vaccinate their pets for rabies. Depending on the type of rabies vaccination, your pet should have one every one to three years.

Among domestic pets, cats are at the most at risk. Morrow explained, "Probably the most common exposure route is a cat playing with a bat that has rabies and is flopping around on the ground."

So far, Morrow hasn't seen any signs of a rabies spike, but he says the threat is real and pet owners should take precautions.

CDC: General information about rabies

CDC Info: How can you prevent rabies in animals?

CDC Info: Rabies and Domestic Animals

CDC Info: More about the Rabies Vaccination