The Environmental Health Director for the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department said Friday the number of reported rabies cases in the county is on the verge of doubling the number of reported for all of last year in the county.

Gary Hickman said that as of June 1, 18 cases of rabies had been found in the county, compared to 11 for all of last year.

No rabies cases at all were found in the county in 2016 or 2015.

Reported cases are very likely only the tip of the iceberg since the big majority of rabid animals in the county will go undetected.

Hickman said it's hard to say exactly why there is such an increase in rabies this year, but possible factors include the relatively mild winters the county has experienced the last couple of years or the relatively wet summers. He said the disease is probably coming in from northern Colorado or Nebraska. Skunks and bats are notorious rabies carriers, but other mammals such as raccoons can also carry the disease.

Of the cases found locally so far in 2018, 16 have involved rabid skunks, while a horse and a cow have also been found with the disease. Hickman warned all pet owners to make sure their animals have been vaccinated against the disease, which is almost always fatal to unvaccinated animals.  The disease is also deadly to human beings, and Hickman said anyone who thinks they may have been bitten by a rabid animal needs to see a doctor immediately, since they have only a short window for possible treatment before the disease will be fatal.

He also said anyone who sees an animal acting strangely, or sees a normally nocturnal animal like a skunk active during the daytime should report the animal to animal control immediately and should avoid being bitten.