JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. – Colorado’s first case of rabies for 2023 has been detected in Morrison, officials with Jefferson County Public Health said Tuesday.
The case was from a skunk that was found at a home near W. Belleview and Quincy Avenues on Jan. 2. Because the skunk was found at a private home, there is the potential for both human and animal exposure, officials said in a news release.
Residents of the home were advised to contact their doctor about getting a rabies vaccine to mitigate their risk of becoming infected with the rabies virus, which attacks the central nervous system and can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dogs that live at the home are up to date on their rabies vaccinations and will be given a booster and placed under a 45-day quarantine, officials said.
“While rabies cases are most frequently seen in warmer months, historically, Colorado does see some cases all year long,” said Rachel Reichardt, Environmental Health Specialist. “Last year in Jefferson County, there were 15 animals that tested positive for rabies, including eight skunks and seven bats.”
The rabies virus is nearly always fatal when not treated by post-exposure prophylaxis – meaning any preventive medical treatment started after exposure to a pathogen in order to prevent an infection from occurring, such as the rabies vaccine – and is shed in the saliva of infected animals, officials said.
People or animals can get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal or from a rabid animal’s saliva if it comes in contact with their eyes, nose, mouth or open wounds, in which case immediate medical attention is necessary, according to the CDC.
Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) encourages residents to take several precautions to prevent exposure and minimize harm from this deadly virus:
- Vaccinate all domestic pets and valuable livestock against rabies and ensure vaccines are kept up to date. A domestic animal encounter with any wild animal will be treated like an exposure to a rabid animal. Domestic animals without up-to-date rabies vaccinations will be classified as high risk and be required to undergo a 120-day quarantine.
- Avoid contact with any wild animals, especially those that act unusually. A healthy wild animal will generally avoid human contact. Do not feed wild animals, since this reduces their natural fear of humans.
- Teach children to stay away from all wild animals, stray domestic pets or dead animals, and to tell an adult if they are scratched or bitten. Please remind children of all ages that a sick, dying or dead animal may carry diseases that humans can contract — trying to help an animal can cause more harm than good.
- Do not allow pets to roam free, since this can increase the chance they could be exposed without your knowledge. Do not leave pet food or livestock feed outside or feed your outdoor pet more than they can finish, as this will encourage a wildlife presence.
- If your pet comes into contact with a wild animal, wear gloves while cleaning them to minimize your risk of exposure to the virus.
- If a person has been bitten or scratched by a wild mammal, they should wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, seek immediate medical attention and notify their local animal control agency. Prompt medical treatment is key to preventing rabies after a possible exposure.
To report a suspicious or dead animal or an animal bite, please contact your local animal control agency, or Jefferson County Animal Control at 303-271-5070.