Rabies Found in Arizona Mountains

Rabies immune globulin and four vaccine doses cost may exceed $3,000

Three rabid animals have been confirmed by the Arizona Department of Health Services State Public Health Laboratory. These three new cases, two foxes and a bat, bring the 2017 total of confirmed rabies cases to 134.

Health officials have issued a major alert for hikers and campers who visit the Superstition Mountains Wilderness Area. Signs warning hikers and campers have been posted at the Lost Dutchman State Park, First Water Trail and the Tonto National Forest.

Public health officials are warning hikers and campers with pets to ensure their animals are vaccinated and on a leash.

Pinal County Animal Care and Control Director Audra Michael said "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 a viral disease of mammals that is usually transmitted via the bite of a rabid animal. In the U.S., most rabies cases involve wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

If people are treated within two or three days after being bitten, the human rabies vaccine is highly effective, and victims usually survive.

During 2015,  the ​50 states and Puerto Rico reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ​5,508 cases of rabies in animals and 3 human rabies cases.

Anyone who has been bitten by an animal, or who otherwise may have been exposed to rabies, should clean the wound and see a doctor immediately for evaluation.

A person who is exposed and has never been vaccinated against rabies should get four doses of rabies vaccine, one dose right away, and additional doses on the third, seventh and fourteenth days.

They should also get another shot called Rabies Immune Globulin at the same time as the first dose, says the CDC.

Because HRIG can partially suppress active production of antibody, no more than the recommended dose should be administered. The recommended dose of HRIG is 20 IU/kg body weight.

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A person who has been previously vaccinated should get two doses of rabies vaccine, one immediately, and another vaccination on the third day.

The estimated public health expenditures on rabies disease diagnostics, prevention, and control in the US is $245 to $510 million annually.

Although the cost varies, a course of rabies immune globulin and four doses of vaccine given over a two-week period typically exceeds $3,000.

This estimate is based on available data on costs associated with the vaccination of companion animals (dogs and cats), national rabies diagnostic testing, and for biologics for rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreEP).

The number of PEP treatments given in the United States each year is unknown; however, it is estimated to be about 40,000 to 50,000.

When rabies becomes epizootic or enzootic in a region, the number of PEP treatments in that area increases.

People at increased risk of exposure to rabies, such as veterinarians, animal handlers, rabies laboratory workers, spelunkers, and rabies biologics production workers should be offered pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreEP). 

The rabies vaccine should also be considered for:

  • People whose activities bring them into frequent contact with rabies virus or with possible rabid animals.
  • International travelers who are likely to come in contact with animals in parts of the world where rabies is common.

The pre-exposure schedule for rabies vaccination is three doses, given at the following times:

  • 1st dose: As appropriate
  • 2nd dose: 7 days after the first dose
  • 3rd dose: 21 days or 28 days after the first dose

In many countries around the world, rabies in dogs is still a serious health problem. At risk countries include most of Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia. If you are traveling to one of these countries, a rabies vaccination may be recommended before your trip, says the CDC.