Rabies is a constant concern in Michigan

Dr. Jill Erickson found a bat infected with rabies in her own garage in Leelanau County. She is practicing what she preaches to her clients everyday, and that's to vaccinate pets on a regular basis.

Health officials are spreading the word on keeping your animals protected against rabies.

So far this year,

35 cases

or rabid bats were found in Michigan, including several in counties across northern Michigan. Emmet, Leelanau, Mackinac, Manistee, Mecosta, Missaukee and Ogemaw Counties each had one case of rabies.

The other counties included in this year's cases include: Berrien (2), Clinton (1), Genessee (2), Ingham (6), Ionia (1), Jackson (2), Kalamazoo (1), Livingston (2), Macomb (2), Monroe (1), Oakland(2), St. Clair (1), Tuscola (1), Washtenaw (3) and Wayne (1).


Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

is urging Michigan residents to make sure their families, pets and livestock are protected.

The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite from an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted in the saliva of an infected animal into an open wound or onto mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth.

"Michigan has rabies laws and programs that help protect citizens. Animal bites are reportable, and the State of Michigan requires dogs and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies," said State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill.

If a person suspects their pet or livestock may have had contact with a potentially rabid animal, they should immediately contact their local animal control agency and veterinarian.

"You cannot always know if an animal has rabies, but if your pet or livestock behave aggressively and this is not normal behavior, you should consider rabies as a possible cause, and take appropriate precautions," Averill said. "If a person is bitten by an animal, they should immediately wash the wound, seek medical attention, and report the bite to the local health department."

Signs of rabies in animals can include lethargy, depression, aggression, seizures, a change in behavior, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, difficulty walking, and eventual death. Because many illnesses can cause these signs, without the laboratory tests rabies cannot be diagnosed. It is not possible to test live animals for rabies. In order to determine if an animal has the disease, a necropsy must be done and the brain tissue must be examined for the presence of characteristic lesions.

In 2012, there were a total of 63 rabies cases in Michigan including 52 bats, 8 skunks, one woodchuck, one dog and one fox.