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Rabies may prompt Coconino County pet quarantine

FLAGSTAFF — The Coconino County Health Department is proposing a pet quarantine across parts of Flagstaff while it distributes an edible rabies vaccine for wild animals.

Rabies has been confirmed in 21 wild animals in the area since November. At least two people have received rabies shots after they were bitten by foxes carrying the fatal disease, and a rabid skunk attacked a child but didn’t puncture the skin on Monday.

The plan requires owners to keep dogs and cats on their property or leashed for 90 days while vaccines are distributed across parts of Flagstaff, Health Department director Barbara Worgess said Friday. It also restricts feeding and interacting with wildlife and requires homeowners not to leave pet food outside overnight.

All the steps are designed to limit human exposure to infected animals.

If approved by county supervisors at their Tuesday meeting, Worgess said it would take effect on Wednesday. The plan would be reviewed every month, though, and could be ended early.

The Flagstaff area has seen outbreaks of rabies several times in the past 10 years, Worgess said. In 2001, the county trapped skunks, injected with vaccine and released them in an effort to build immunity through the local animal population. When the next outbreak occurred in 2005, the county turned to a new oral vaccine and used it again in 2006.

Worgess said both the programs were effective in knocking back the disease for several years and she expects similar results this year.

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