Cochise County officials are warning the community about the signs and symptoms of rabies, due to the increase of animal bites this year.

Kimberly Mitchell, PHEP Coordinator for Cochise County Health & Social Services, said last year there was a total of four reported animal bites all from wild animals. This year, she says, there have been nine reported animal bites five of which have been from domestic animals.

The number one reason people should be reporting any type of animal bite is rabies is 100% fatal to anybody that acquires that virus,” Mitchell said. “Which means theres no treatment once symptoms occur.

The bites are occurring all over the county, but Mitchell could not provide specific locations because there are open investigations into the bites.

County officials are urging people who are bit to call local law enforcement to report the incident so an investigation can be done into whether or not the animal has rabies. Mitchell says encounters with stray animals, lost pets, or wildlife should be handled by animal control or local law enforcement as a precaution and to avoid any possible bites.

“We have to make sure we don’t feed them, we don’t touch them,” she said. “I know they’re cute, but let’s not do that because that is provoking the animal, which they’re going to be defensive and will try to either bite you, scratch you, or try and get away.”

Mitchell says if someone is bit to wash the wound, call law enforcement and seek medical attention. Rabies cannot be treated once symptoms present themselves.

Normally the human itself wouldnt see those changes but their partner, their family, may see agitation increased thirst,” she said.

Treatment for rabies involves a series of shots. Mitchell said some people don’t seek medical attention because they can’t afford the treatment. She says the county has resources for people that can help cover the cost of the series of shots, but people need to report the incident in order to get the help.