Two more cases of rabid animals in the Superstition Mountains east of the Phoenix area recently were confirmed, Pinal County health officials said Friday.

The Superstition Mountains Wilderness Area, which includes Lost Dutchman State Park, the First Water Trail and the Tonto National Forest, is a popular area for hikers.

The area has signs posted warning hikers and campers about rabid animals at numerous locations, including trail heads, campgrounds and entry stations, Pinal County officials said.

“From the reports we have been getting from hikers in the area, it looks like we have an increase of rabies in wild animals,” said Pinal County Epidemiologist Graham Briggs.  “Two of the cases have been confirmed, but park officials have reported seeing dead animals, along with aggressive animals, on the trails.” 

The Arizona Department of Health Services, which tracks rabies cases in the state, lists three reported cases in Pinal County in 2017 through Thursday. It was not immediately clear if those figures on the DHS website included the cases cited by Pinal County officials in the news release issued Friday, which did not specify what types of animals were found.

Two foxes and one bat have been captured in the county and have tested positive for rabies. 

There have been 134 confirmed reports of rabid animals throughout Arizona this year.

Records show 24 cases of humans being in direct contact with rabid animals in 2017. 

There have been 65 cases of domestic animals in direct contact with rabid wildlife reported to state officials this year.

Pima County has recorded the most reports, with 72, with 61 one of those involving bats.

DHS cites bats as the most common source of rabies exposure, with skunks and foxes also common carriers.

Pinal County Animal Care and Control Director Audra Michael said that hikers should be careful when bringing their pets on a hike.

“The first thing is to make sure your pets are properly vaccinated,” Michael said. “The other is not to let them roam free while you are hiking; always have them on a leash.”

Rabies is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord of animals and humans. It is caused by a virus present in the saliva of infected animals, according to PInal County health officials. 

Anyone who thinks they may have come in contact with the virus should contact a health professional immediately.


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