Be aware of bats and the risk of rabies
Many people are bitten by animals each year, and very few of those animals are rabid. However, it is important to know what to do if a person comes into contact with a bat or another animal that could be rabid. Rabies in humans is nearly 100 percent fatal if left untreated. However, it is 100 percent curable through prompt, appropriate medical care.
Last year in Wyoming, a woman awoke to find a bat on her neck. She swatted it away and washed her hands. Her husband captured the bat with gloved hands and released it outside. The woman did not appear to have any bite wounds, so the couple did not contact a physician. The woman passed away from a rabies infection over a month later.
In Colorado, most cases of rabies are found in skunks and bats. Though less than 6 percent of bats carry the rabies virus, anyone finding a bat in the home is advised to close doors leading to the room and contact animal control to have the bat removed. If the animal had access to a bedroom overnight, alert the local health department that the bat needs testing for rabies. The transmission of rabies can occur from minor, seemingly unimportant or unrecognized bites from bats.
If there has been a risk of exposure, keep the animal for testing. This may prevent you from having to undergo a series of post-exposure vaccination treatments. Deceased bats should be bagged and stored in the refrigerator until they can be brought to the local Public Health Department.
Pets are also susceptible to rabies. Pets must be vaccinated before being exposed to rabies in order to survive an exposure. Visit the veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets and dogs.
Rabies prevention reminders:
• Do not handle bats (alive or dead).
• If a live bat is found in the home, contact animal control for removal.
• If a bat is thought to have bitten someone, do not discard the bat, contact Public Health for testing (using gloves, double-bag deceased bat and store in refrigerator).
• Rabies is almost always fatal if left untreated.
• If bitten, cleanse the wound immediately with soap and water for 15 minutes and contact a health-care provider or the local health department as soon as possible.
For more information, contact Garfield County Public Health at 970-625-5200 or 970-945-6614 or visit garfield-county.com/public-health.
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