State and county health officials aren't ready to predict an epidemic, but an unusually high number of rabies cases has been detected this spring in animals across Kansas.
And for the second time in a week, an animal carcass found in Lawrence has tested positive for rabies.
Last week, it was a skunk found in North Lawrence.
On Monday, a dead bat tested positive for rabies. It was found lying on a car roof in the 1200 block of East 21st Street, Lawrence Police said.
Both tests were conducted by Kansas State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
"One of the primary determining factors of a higher rate of rabies is skunks," said Mike Heideman, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
So far this year in Kansas, 64 skunks have tested positive for rabies, according to statistics from the Kansas State lab. That's just four fewer than the 68 skunks that tested positive during all of 2001.
In April alone, four Kansas horses were found to have rabies. That is the total usually reported during an entire year, Heideman said. The total for this year now stands at five.
The Douglas County Health Department also is monitoring rabies cases. A warning flag was raised recently when the health department received a report of a raccoon spotted in Lawrence during the day.
"That is very unusual because raccoons are normally nocturnal animals," said Barbara Schnitker, director of nurses at the health department. "That indicates there may have been something wrong."
Parents should instruct their children to avoid wild or unknown animals, Schnitker said.
Pet owners also need to make sure their animals have been vaccinated for rabies.
If a person is bitten by a strange animal, they should seek medical treatment immediately, Schnitker said. The Animal Control Department or a law enforcement agency should be called and attempts will be made to confine the animal for 10 days.
If at the end of 10 days the animal is still healthy, there would be no fear of rabies, she said. If the animal is not found or if there is a question about its health, the victim should see a doctor and receive an initial shot. That would be followed by five vaccinations over a period of a month, Schnitker said.
Rabies shots are given in the arm, she said.
"It's not like it used to be," Schnitker said of the shots. "It's been refined."
Rabies can be fatal to humans. The last human case of rabies in Kansas was in 1968, KDHE officials said.