Rain chances possible this week

Rabies on the rise in Okla.

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NOBLE, Okla. -- This year could be a banner year for rabies in Oklahoma.

It appears the dangerous disease is on the rise.

So far in 2012, Oklahoma has seen 35 cases of animal rabies compared to just 61 for all of 2011.

Bats and skunks are the common Oklahoma carriers out in the wild.

The skunk's increased population could be the reason for the rise.

Rondi Large with WildCare in Noble said, "Skunks, like all wild populations, will have peaks and valleys in their numbers. This was a real mild winter so I'm not at all surprised that we are going to have increased number of skunks this year and especially babies coming on in the next month."

Laurence Burnsed is an Epidemiologist with the Oklahoma Department of Health.

He said, "Every six to eight years there are fluctuations in the occurrence of rabies among our wild animal population which can translate into rabies in other animals."

Other animals can include livestock and possibly your pets, since they are more likely to come in contact with carriers from the wild.

Burnsed said, "If there is overly aggressive behavior or in the paralyzed from where the animal is losing its coordination, that's what you want to be aware of."

If your pet gets the virus, a simple bite or a lick to the face that lands saliva in your eyes, ears, mouth or nose could spread the disease to humans.

The problem with the virus is that it can take weeks or even months for symptoms to surface in people.

That's why if there is any chance you've come in contact with the disease, you should discuss it with your doctor.

Rabies can be deadly in humans but a series of vaccines is almost 100 percent effective.

There is an easy way to protect yourself, your family and your pets from rabies.

Burnsed strongly suggests vaccinating your pets against rabies, especially this year.

That way they are safe and don't help to spread it from the wild to other animals or people.

When it comes to wild animals Large said, "Don't expose yourself or your children and definitely vaccinate your pets. That's such a simple thing to do and that will make sure that your pets are safe."