Rabies is peaking in Michigan. The viral disease has been found in West Michigan including the counties of Kent, Kalamazoo and Newaygo.

The Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Health and Human Services and Natural Resources are urging residents to protect their families, pets and livestock from rabies.

Rabies is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. Once symptoms begin, there is no treatment for rabies.

Preventive treatment is given to people who are exposed to a potentially rabid animal. Treatment is not necessary if an animal tests negative for rabies. Rabies is fatal to humans if proper treatment is not received.

Mammals can be infected with rabies and several species of wild animals serve as rabies carriers, including bats and skunks. Bats are the species most frequently found with rabies in Michigan.

“If you discover a bat in your home, carefully confine the bat and get in touch with your local health department to determine if you could have been exposed to rabies,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS chief medical executive. "Save any bat for testing if there is even the slightest question of exposure, especially if the bat was found in a sleeping area."

As of August 8, 2016, 21 animals in Michigan have been confirmed as rabies infected. Four skunks and 17 bats were found in the counties of Alpena, Antrim, Calhoun, Eaton, Genesee, Ingham, Jackson, Kent, Kalamazoo, Missaukee, Newaygo, Oakland, Saginaw and Washtenaw.

“Normally, wild animals have a healthy fear of humans. If they aren’t acting afraid, it’s often because they’re sick. If someone has been handling a wild animal or is bitten by a wild animal, that animal may have to be euthanized in order to be tested for rabies," said Dr. Dan O’Brien, acting DNR state wildlife veterinarian.

Anyone bitten by an animal should seek medical care immediately. If possible, collect the animal and consult with local health authorities to determine if rabies testing or an animal confinement period is necessary.

If pet or livestock owners suspect their animals may have had contact with a potentially rabid animal or has been bitten, they need to contact their veterinarian for the appropriate course of action, even if the pet or livestock animal is currently vaccinated against rabies.

“Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating dogs, cats, ferrets, horses and select livestock,” said Dr. James Averill, MDARD state veterinarian. “It’s crucial animal owners work with their veterinarian to ensure their animals are protected from rabies."