04/04/2012 10:53 am ET

Illinois Rabies Risk Increased By Early Warm Weather

Chicago's early warm weather may bring more risks than unanticipated sunburns and allergy attacks. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, it's also inviting a spike in rabies infections.

Specifically, the warm weather makes bats more active earlier in the year, and bats are common carriers of the disease--49 tested positive for rabies in Illinois last year, according to the Associated Press. Two people are currently being treated in the state, the health department told the AP.

Although rabies is preventable and treatable in humans, the disease can be fatal, and accounts for at least 55,000 annual deaths globally, according to a 2007 Chicago Department of Public Health report. That year, of 593 citizen-reported bat sightings, 264 were captured and tested, and 4.2 percent tested rabies-positive, double the previous year.

One Illinois county, Moultrie, is currently reporting a bat that tested positive for the disease, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. By the end of 2011, 21 counties had reported rabid animals found in the area, predominately bats.