Two more bats test positive for rabies

Two more bats in the last three weeks have tested positive for rabies in Mesa County, public health officials announced Monday.

Because rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms begin, Mesa County Public Health is urging residents stay safe and ensure their pets are up to date on rabies vaccinations. A total of three bats have tested positive in the county this year.

Rabies is common among bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes, but the disease has only been found in bats on the Western Slope, Mesa County Public Health epidemiologist Andy Tyler said. Rabies has been found in skunks and raccoons on the Front Range.

Anyone who believes they’ve had contact with a bat should contact Mesa County Public Health immediately. A person can be bitten by a bat and never know it, Tyler said.

“If you wake up and there’s a bat in your room, call us before you let it out,” he said. “Their teeth are so tiny and so sharp we have to kind of assume you were bitten. We typically will recommend they get the rabies shot.”

Bats can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter, Tyler said.

Mesa County seems to have the most exposure to bats during August and September, but Tyler said the reasons for that are unclear.

No one has died from contracting rabies in Colorado for decades. A Wyoming woman died in 2015 from rabies, Tyler said.

Rabies is almost always fatal by the time symptoms occur, but a person who contracts rabies can receive treatment.

Rabies is spread by a bite from an infected animal. Anyone who is bitten by an animal should wash the wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention immediately, the department said.

Keeping pets up-to-date on rabies vaccinations can keep them from contracting the disease. Unvaccinated pets that are exposed to rabies face lengthy quarantine stays or may be euthanized. No dogs or cats have tested positive for rabies in Mesa County, Tyler said.

Mesa County Public Health recommends:

■ Leashing pets while walking and hiking and keeping them away from wild animals.

■ Keeping pets inside at night.

■ Calling your veterinarian if you think your pet has been in contact with a wild animal.

■ Deterring wild animals from your home by locking trash cans.

■ Pruning tree branches that overhang the roof.

■ Keeping screens on windows and covering small openings to your home.

■ Not trying to rescue injured or sick wild animals or keeping wild animals as pets.


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