Keep your pets close to home, because there's a new strain of rabies in Arizona -- and it's spreading.
Known as "Big Brown Bat," the virus appears to have mutated and is jumping species. Skunks and foxes are getting it -- without having had any contact with bats.
"Usually it'll dead end in the other animal," says Carol Chambers, a professor of wildlife ecology at Northern Arizona University. "In this case it didn't -- it has evolved into a strain that can persist in animals and be transfered from skunk to skunk."
The scariest part of the virus? Animals don't need to be bit to get it. It's appears to be spread socially.
Still, it doesn't look like we're going to be seeing an overwhelming epidemic anytime soon. According to Chambers, rabies has always been a pretty rare disease, and less than 1 percent of bats in Northern Arizona are infected. And she doesn't think there's any chance it'll spread socially to humans.
But she is worried about the safety of bats. Sometimes people get scared by rabies and start killing them off, she says.
"We're very concerned about people misunderstanding bats and doing retribution killings," she says. "Bats do a lot of good things, too."
Still, it might be a good idea to keep Fido indoors for a while.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.