Incidence of rabies is rising, as reported by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). In 2015, rabies was confirmed in 230 animals across 40 different counties in the state, including Santa Barbara County. This number of reported rabies cases marks an increase over the annual average in the previous ten years (2005-2014).
One of the 2015 rabies cases was in a bat from Santa Barbara. Last week, another bat from Santa Barbara tested positive for rabies.
Ninety-nine percent of confirmed rabies cases were in wild animals. Statewide, bats were the wild animal most frequently reported rabid with 198 confirmed cases, followed by skunks with 29 confirmed cases.
Rabies is rarely identified in domestic animals such as cats and dogs, but can occur if they come into close contact with the saliva of a rabid wild animal; and while it is chiefly a disease of wild mammals, it can occasionally affect humans.
If saliva from an infected animal gets onto a break in a person’s skin — most commonly through a bite — that person might become infected. Rabies vaccine, administered after a possible exposure, is highly effective at preventing the progression of the disease.
The CDPH suggests that pet owners do not allow their pets to have contact with wild or unfamiliar animals, especially bats and skunks, and ensure their pets remain up-to-date with rabies vaccinations. All dogs in California are required to be vaccinated against rabies.