Beware of deadly rabies disease in the Gila River Indian Community

Tribal Health Department

Gila River Indian Community


Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that affects the nervous system. rabies is commonly passed in saliva that is secreted from the bite of an infected animal to humans. Rabies symptoms in humans and animals can include; irritability or aggressiveness, excessive movements, confusion, bizarre or strange thoughts, muscle spasms, unusual postures, seizures, weakness and extreme sensitivity to bright lights, sounds, or touch. Once the outward symptoms of rabies are present, it is almost always fatal. 


There have been recent reports that humans are most commonly exposed to this disease by wild animals, with the majority of cases linked to skunks, raccoons, bats, coyotes and foxes. However, domestic animals are also able to contract rabies, if they are bitten by an infected animal.


In recent years, cats have become the most common domestic animal infected with the disease. In order to reduce the possibility of exposure to the disease you should vaccinate your animals. Vaccinating your pets annually reduces the spread of infectious diseases throughout pet populations and not only protects the animals but humans as well.


If you or your animals are bitten by any wildlife animal or domestic animal exhibiting signs of rabies, it is urgent that you and/or your animal seek immediate assistance from a Physician or Veterinarian. Also, follow up with a local Animal Control Officer and/or local health department to verify the current status of vaccinations for the affected animal. 


According to the Arizona Department of Health Services the state of Arizona experienced a high year for rabies in 2018; totaling 160 rabid animals being reported. Within Maricopa County, 119 animals were lab tested which resulted in 8 positive cases. 


The correlation between Gila River Indian Community and rabies is a unique situation due to the high rate of intermingling among domestic animals and wild animals on the reservation, there’s a higher rate of rabies in domestic animals compared to wild animals in surrounding areas. This serves as a reminder to keep a close eye on your animals by not letting them roam freely and to keep them vaccinated. Taking responsibility and being accountable for your animal can help prevent rabies from spreading in the Community.