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Rabies on the rise in California

A 2015 report from the California Department of Public Health noted an increase in rabies over previous years, and just last week, health officials say a bat in Santa Barbara County tested positive for rabies.

“if you’ve ever seen rabies you would take care of your pet,” says Pat Lala.

She owns three rescued dogs. She says she always keeps up with their vaccinations.

Rabies is a virus that seriously affects the central nervous system, and if left untreated, it will lead to death, says the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. A person may become infected with rabies if a rabid animal’s saliva gets unto a break in a person’s skin, such as through a bite, through the eyes, mouth or nose.

“It’s really important that dogs and cats be vaccinated for rabies to protect the human and animal population,” says Jan Glick, Animal Services Director.

A rabies vaccine can be administered after a possible exposure, and is very effective to stop the progression of the virus. However, once an individual develops symptoms of rabies, public health officials say there is no effective treatment and that person will die.

Pets are also at risk of contracting rabies if they come into close contact with the saliva of a rabid wild animal.

Health officials recognize the importance of protecting pets and recommend the following:

Do not allow your pets to have contact with wild or unfamiliar animals, especially bats and skunks. Keep pets confined on your property or under control when off your property. See your veterinarian regularly to ensure that your pet remains in good health and is up-to-date on its rabies vaccination.

Animal bites are required to be immediately reported to the County and City Animal Control.


Statewide, rabies was confirmed in 230 animals last year across 40 different counties in California, including Santa Barbara County 99 percent of these confirmed rabies cases were in wild animals. Bats (198, 86.8%) were the wild animal most frequently reported rabid, followed by skunks (29, 12.7%).

Rabies is also occasionally detected in other wild animals such as raccoons and foxes.

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