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Rabies Cases On The Rise In Kansas This Year

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The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Animal Health is warning Kansas residents about an uptick in rabies infections this year.

As of July 1, there have been 69 positive cases of rabies in the state, 13 of which have been in domestic animals. In 2014, there were 69 cases for the entire year. 

Kansas Animal Health Commissioner Bill Brown says that the increase is part of a natural cycle. He says rabies cases typically surge every few years, and this year's hot temperatures and wet weather could be spurring more animal activity — and more chances for infection.

"We see these cycles where the disease sort of wears itself out but is still smoldering," Brown said. "Then it comes back again, and of course weather and other factors have an impact."

Brown says of the 13 domestic animals infected this year, four were cats, which have a greater risk of encountering other infected animals because they are often put outside at night. 

The Division of Animal Health recommends that Kansans make sure their pets' rabies shots are up to date, and be on the lookout for animals exhibiting the following behaviors:

  • Disoriented movement
  • Rigid limbs
  • Increased salivation (foaming mouth)
  • Aggressiveness or lack of concern for human activity

Humans who are bit by a rabies-infected animal can prevent the disease from doing serious harm by seeking medical attention immediately. If rabies is not treated promptly, it can progress to a terminal stage within weeks or days.

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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