CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State epidemiologists have seen a small increase in the percentage of animals with rabies so far this year, according to data from the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.
Of 142 animals that were tested in January through March, 14, or about 10 percent, tested positive. They included eight raccoons, four skunks, a cat and a cow.
"We receive specimens submitted for a variety of reasons," said Shannon McBee, an epidemiologist with the bureau's Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology.
"That could've been if the animal was causing a nuisance in the neighborhood or if they suspected something, or if there was an encounter with a dog or cat - or a bat. They just wanted to get it tested."
In the first quarter of 2012, 17 of 294 animals tested positive, or about 6 percent.
McBee said the total number of animals that tested positive for rabies in 2012 was 71, which was down from 138 in 2011.
Typically, the number of cases where rabies is detected is higher in the summer, she said.
"With the hot weather, people are leaving trash out, so we're seeing more," she said. "And during the spring and summer time, that's when the animals are having babies. Just like many other animals, they're more active."
Though slightly higher than last year, the numbers are "nothing out of the ordinary," McBee said.
Most cases were in eastern counties. The counties with diagnosed rabies cases this year include Jefferson, Berkeley, Grant (two cases), Hardy, Pendleton (three cases), Pocahontas, Greenbrier, Monroe (two cases) and Mercer (two cases).
Raccoons are the most frequent carriers of rabies in the state. Six raccoons tested positive in the eastern counties, and two were in active surveillance counties, McBee said. The four skunks that tested positive were also in the eastern counties.