FORT WORTH (AP) – Veterinarians and state health officials say an increase in rabies cases, particularly in parts of North Texas, may be due to the drought forcing wild rabid animals into more populated areas to find water.

The animals then have contact with family pets.

For the first six months of the years, preliminary state records show 591 cases of rabies compared with 387 over the same period a year ago.

Reports show 51 were reported in Denton, Johnson, Parker, Tarrant and Wise counties during the first six months of 2011 compared with 25 in the same period last year.

State officials suspect the drought is a contributing factor in the reporting of rabies, along with an increased skunk population and better public awareness of the disease.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)