Mesa County encourages rabies safety

The Mesa County Health Department and Mesa County Animal Services want to remind residents to take steps to prevent rabies exposure as the weather warms and people encounter wildlife more frequently while cleaning homes or enjoying the outdoors.

Precautions include avoiding feeding or handling unfamiliar feral or domestic animals; closing holes around your home foundation, covering window sills, placing screens on chimneys and vents, and sealing cracks and holes larger than a quarter-inch in diameter.

Rabies is most often found in bats in Mesa County but it can be found in skunks, raccoons, foxes and other animals. Anyone who is bitten by an animal should contact a medical provider, report the bite to Mesa County Animal Services at 242-4646, and, if it is determined there has been exposure to rabies, seek treatment.

Rabies is often transmitted to humans through saliva or brain tissue of an infected animal and wounds should be washed immediately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A physician can determine if a potentially exposed person needs a rabies vaccination regimen, which consists of four shots given in the arm over the course of two weeks.

People exposed to rabies should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Incubation can take months but rabies is almost always fatal if people wait to seek treatment after clinical signs of rabies appear, usually within two to 10 days after symptoms begin.

The first symptoms are flu-like (weakness, fever, headache and possibly itching by the bite) and progress to hallucinations, insomnia, abnormal behaviors, delirium, confusion, agitation, anxiety and/or cerebral dysfunction, according to the CDC.

More than 90 percent of U.S. rabies cases are the result of contact with wild animals, according to the CDC. On average, two or three U.S. residents die of rabies each year.

In Colorado, the CDC found rabies in 63 skunks, 61 bats, seven foxes, a rodent, a cat, one horse or mule, and two other wild animals in 2010, the most recent year surveillance data is available. The virus was not detected in any Colorado humans that year.

No human rabies deaths have been reported in Colorado since CDC state-by-state surveillance began in 1995.


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