Warning: Rabies cases on rise in Kern County

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) A rash of rabies-infected animals prompted the Kern County Public Health Department to issue a warning Tuesday to its citizens.

"Human rabies is a very rare condition in the United States, yet by being aware of the facts surrounding rabies and bats, our community can help protect itself," Dr. Claudia Jonah, health officer for Kern County, said in a news release.

Within the last three weeks, the Public Health department has had a number of bats and other animals submitted that tested positive for rabies.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease affecting the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Any warm-blooded animal can be infected, but infections are most common in bats, skunks, foxes, coyotes and raccoons, the Public Health department said.

Domestic animals usually become infected through contact with an infected wild animal.

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid contact with potentially infected animals. If anyone is bitten by an animal, or exposed to its saliva through the eyes, nose or mouth, wash the site thoroughly with soap and water and immediately seek medical evaluation for possible treatment, health officials advised.