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Knoxville — Rutherford County continues to have the most reported cases of rabies in Tennessee, with 25 cases in August.

A University of Tennessee rabies expert said the disease most often appears in skunks.

“As of August 1, there had been 60 confirmed rabid animals in the state, 51 of which were skunks,” said Dr. John New. “That’s not unusual, because skunks are typically the most common animal found rabid in Tennessee.”

Rutherford has had the most rabies reports of any county for several years.

New said rabies is very prevalent in the skunk population.

“We consider them the reservoir species in the state,” said New. “In other words, that’s where the virus is maintained.”

“Oftentimes, when other animals, particularly domestic animals, come up positive for rabies, it can be traced to exposure to a skunk,” said New.

New says rabies typically kills almost all the skunks in an area, but females usually live long enough to have offspring.