Residents, take precautions to prevent rabies exposures

Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

During the 2017 summer season, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) submitted and tested 11 bats for rabies, one of which was positive. SJBPH also tested seven skunks, three of which were positive. So far in 2018, 131 animals (130 skunks and one alpaca) from Colorado have tested positive for rabies. Of those, 44 rabid animals were known or strongly suspected of exposing 103 domestic pets, 55 livestock animals, and 13 people. All 131 animals were located on the Front Range.

Humans get rabies from the bite of a rabies-infected animal (rabid animal). Any wild mammal, such as raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, or bat can have rabies and transmit it to humans through a bite. In 2017 five people in southwest Colorado received the rabies post-exposure treatment due to contact with wildlife.

It is important to keep vaccinations current for cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals. According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Rabies Prevention and Control Policy, precautions must be taken if there is suspicion that a pet has had sufficient contact with a wild animal that is unable to be tested, or has tested positive for rabies.

Bats are very common carriers of rabies in Colorado. When a potential bat exposure occurs, SJBPH has strict guidance when recommending post-exposure treatment. If a bat has been present in a room in which people have been sleeping, it is important that the bat is safely trapped and tested for rabies. If a bat cannot be tested or there are multiple bats in the home, post-exposure treatment of anyone living in the home is recommended. Please contact SJBPH for guidance on safe capture, testing of bats, and follow-up.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Do not touch live or dead wild animals.
  • Ensure your residence is ‘bat proof’. Keep your doors and windows closed. Make sure your window screens don’t have holes, and keep your attic free of bats by making sure all vents are properly screened.
  • Seek professional animal control if your work or home is inhabited by bats or skunks.
  • Do not feed wildlife.
  • Individuals are urged to keep their pets and livestock current for rabies vaccination to protect them and your family.

To report an encounter with a suspect animal, please call San Juan Basin Public Health at 970-247-5702.

Learn more: to learn more about rabies and precautions visit www.cdc.gov/rabies.

San Juan Basin Public Health is a local public health agency, governed by a seven-member local Board of Health, serving all residents of Archuleta and La Plata counties. For 70 years, San Juan Basin Public Health has improved the health and environment of southwest Colorado.

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