Local counties reporting more rabies cases in months than in entire years; state veterinarian says it’s not a spike

One case involved a family dog who bit a neighbor; At least one human undergoing rabies shots

Several counties surrounding Bexar County appear to be experiencing bumps in the number of rabies cases, though a state veterinarian says it’s not enough to qualify as a spike.

Hundreds of cases of the often fatal disease are reported in Texas, typically in wild animals like skunks, bats, foxes and raccoons. But less than four months into 2024, Comal, Guadalupe, Kerr and Kendall Counties have all reported roughly as many, or even more, cases than they have in entire recent years.

Kerr County, for example, says it has found eight cases so far in 2024, compared to just four cases in 2023. Not all of the Kerr County cases are reflected in the latest Texas Department of State Health Services cases map, which was last updated April 12.

DSHS data also shows six cases in Comal County so far compared to four in all of 2023, four cases in Kendall County compared to three cases last year, and four cases in Guadalupe County compared to five last year.

Bexar County, though, appears to be roughly within its normal range. Only three cases have been reported so far, but there were 11 cases in both 2023 and 2022.

Some local counties have recorded more rabies cases less than four months into 2024 than in entire previous years. (KSAT)

“We can definitely call it an increase from previous years, but it’s not to the level of a spike that is a concern that any different action needs to be taken than any other normal public health action for rabies,” said Dr. Amanda Kieffer, the zoonosis control veterinarian for DSHS Region 8.

Kieffer said they periodically see “epizootics” — or clusters of cases — in particular areas, which could involve various factors.

“A lot of it does have to do with those animals being out and the weather changing. You know, it is - or was just recently - mating season for skunks. And now they’re going into, you know, litter season. So, they are more likely to be out encountering other animals,” Kieffer said.

Kerr County Cases

In Kerr County, there have been eight rabies cases since March 8, including one family dog.

The latest cases involved a fox and a raccoon.

The raccoon was found in the northeastern part of the county off Whiskey Canyon Road. The fox was found in a backyard on West Main Street in Kerrville.

“In both of these cases, the deceased animals were found near homes and, in each instance, the dead, wild animal may have been in close contact with the families’ pets,” KCAS Director Reagan Givens said.

Texas law recommends that pets be euthanized if they come in contact with an animal confirmed to be rabid. If pet owners are unwilling, and their pet was current on their vaccinations at the time of exposure, then they must follow a protocol that includes revaccination and confinement for 45 days. If they were not up to date on their rabies vaccine, the confinement increases to 90 days with vaccination and booster shots.

“If you have not gotten your family pets vaccinated against rabies – a terrible, viral and deadly disease that attacks the central nervous system – then I would say there is no time like the present,” Givens said. “We’ve now had eight cases this year in four different types of mammals, both inside city limits and out in a rural area. Rabies is in Kerr County right now. You never know when you or your family pets will encounter a rabid animal, so please take the necessary precautions.”

KCAS officials said on Easter Sunday, a pet owner euthanized a pet dog after it bit a neighbor. KCAS retrieved a sample for testing, but the sample was “untestable.” It was presumed positive for rabies.

Anyone who notices an animal acting strange or appearing sick should report it to Kerr County Animal Services by calling 830-257-3100.

Kendall County Cases

Kendall County Animal Control has confirmed four cases of rabies.

All of the cases were centered around the area of Coveney Ranch and Rusty Lane off Highway 46 East, according to a press release from KCAC.

The most recent case involved a fox who bit a human. That person is in the process of receiving the post-exposure rabies shots.

People can report sick animals to Kendall County Animal Control at 830-537-3430 or make a report with Boerne Dispatch at 830-249-8645.

Rabies is typically found in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, but can be found in dogs that come into contact with the infected animals.

The virus is deadly but preventable. It infects the central nervous system, though symptoms may not appear for weeks or even months, according to the CDC.

Someone infected with rabies will feel flu-like symptoms such as weakness or discomfort, fever or headache, and discomfort at the site of the bite.

Symptoms will lead to cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion and agitation, and then progress to delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, hydrophobia and insomnia.

People bitten or scratched by wildlife or unfamiliar animals should speak with a healthcare or public health professional. The virus is nearly always fatal after the clinical signs of rabies appear.

For more information on the virus, click here.

About the Authors

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

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