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Bat found outside elementary school in El Paso County latest to test positive for rabies in Colorado

Rabies season in wild animals is underway across Colorado, with 3 counties reporting cases since late April
Posted at 12:12 PM, May 21, 2024

DENVER — A bat found outside an elementary school in El Paso County has tested positive for rabies, adding to the few cases of rabies detected so far in the state this year.

The bat, found at Grant Elementary School on May 14, was tested and confirmed positive for the virus three days later. It is the first animal to test positive for the disease in El Paso County this year.

There are currently no known exposures between the bat and any students or staff at Grant Elementary, El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH) officials said in a news release Tuesday.

“Bats naturally live in our region and can be found anywhere in and around our county,” said Dr. Bernadette Albanese, co-medical director of El Paso County Public Health. “During the summer months, we typically see more cases of rabies among wildlife, including bats. With the warmer days and folks spending more time outdoors, it’s possible for people or pets to encounter a bat.”

Two people exposed to rabies in Arapahoe County

A bat found in Englewood near Quincy Ave. and Santa Fe Dr. recently tested positive for rabies, the first case in Arapahoe County this year, according to Arapahoe County Public Health (ACPH) officials, who said in a news release Tuesday that though two people had been exposed to the deadly pathogen, they had begun preventative treatment to avoid getting infected and sick.

Health officials in Arapahoe County asked people who may have come into direct contact with a bat, especially if it was near this area, to immediately contact their doctor or Arapahoe County Public Health at 303-734-4379 to evaluate risk for rabies and any need for treatment.

“It’s important to take possible exposure to rabies seriously, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal. For example, if you have a bat in your home, it can be difficult to even know if you’ve been bitten, as bat bites are tiny, often painless and can happen quickly while you’re trying to catch the animal or are asleep,” said Melissa Adair, communicable disease epidemiology manager.

First rabid bat of the season found in Larimer County

The first rabid bad of the 2024 season was found on April 25 on a porch in a neighborhood near Drake and Timberline in Fort Collins, according to Larimer County Public Health (LCPH) officials.

Public health officials in that county did not say whether anyone had been exposed, but the county’s medical officer for the LCPH said he could not “overstate the critical importance of preventing contact with wildlife and knowing what to do if contact does occur.”

So far this year, Colorado has identified four cases of rabies throughout the state, according to health officials.

In 2023, there were 55 cases or rabies in Colorado, 47 of which were in bats, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

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What is rabies and how you can reduce your risk of becoming infected

The rabies virus is shed in the saliva of infected animals and is nearly always fatal when not treated soon after exposure, according to health officials.

People or animals can get rabies from the bite or scratch 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.

You can prevent getting rabies by taking the following precautions:

  • 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.
Denver 7+ Colorado News Latest Headlines | May 21, 11am

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