In spite of an aggressive rabies vaccination campaign in southern New Mexico, reports of new cases continue to filter in from across the state, most recently in Curry and Mora counties, raising the number of confirmed cases this year to 32.

In what has been termed the worst rabies outbreak in New Mexico in many years, pet and livestock owners in southern regions of the state were warned to be on the outlook for infected animals after 30 confirmed cases of the disease were discovered in Eddy County between Jan. and Mar. this year, mostly in skunks and foxes.

While the program is being credited with helping to curb the outbreak there, the Mora County incident reported in April and the latest Eddy County incident this month may be an indication the threat of rabies is more widespread and growing.

In Carlsbad earlier this year there were reports of a fox chasing residents down a street and multiple incidents where either foxes or skunks had ventured into incorporated areas and had bitten dogs. At least a dozen people have undergone rabies treatment this year as a result of exposure.

In addition, New Mexico Extension agent Woods Houghton reported one cow was being observed for signs of rabies infection and said there was a confirmed case of rabies in a single horse last year.

“I have cautioned horse and livestock owners to be on the watch for early signs of rabies infection. The problem we have on a farm or ranch is the chance for human exposure as ranch hands regularly work with these animals. While we think of rabies as something our pets can easily contract, the truth is it can happen with farm animals as well,” Houghton said.

Another case of rabies may have occurred in a cow last year but the rancher buried the animal before health officials could arrive for testing in an effort to prevent predators from feeding on the contaminated carcass.

Assistant State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Megin Nichols in Santa Fe says last year’s historic drought has contributed to the growing number of rabies cases in New Mexico. While most have been isolated in deep southern parts of the state, the latest cases reported in Mora County in north central New Mexico and Curry County near the Texas-New Mexico line may be an indication the virus may be spreading to other areas.