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Warning: Drought Increases Rabies Risk For Pets, People

SAN MATEO (CBS SF) -- Rabies is one of the many unintended consequences of California's record breaking drought, according to San Mateo County health officials.

Animal bites are already more common during summer because everyone spends more time outside, but the drought exacerbates the rabies risk.

As watering holes dry up, wild, potentially infected animals come closer to homes looking for places to drink, putting pets and residents in even greater danger.

Residents are being advised to avoid contact with wild or unfamiliar animals.

In 2014, 177 rabid animals were recorded, including 2 cats and a dog. The rabies virus can be transmitted from wildlife, to pets and to humans.

"Think about how many people one infected dog can come into contact with during one afternoon outside—now all those people are at risk," said County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow. "

County officials have launched a campaign, "Protect Your Pets--Vaccinate Them," urging pet owners to inoculate their pets against rabies.

"Show your love for your pets by making sure they are vaccinated against rabies," said Dr. Julia Wang-Lewis, one of the County's veterinarians. "Getting your pets vaccinated is the only way to protect them and the entire community against rabies, which is 100% fatal in animals and usually fatal in people if not treated right away."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, early symptoms of rabies in humans include fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, victims experience insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia.

Animals may seem lethargic, and experience fever vomiting, and anorexia. Within days symptoms such as weakness, paralysis, seizures, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, abnormal behavior, aggression, and/or self-mutilation will appear.

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