San Juan Basin Public Health is warning residents about the dangers of rabies.
This year in Colorado, 131 animals – 130 skunks and one alpaca – have tested positive for rabies, and according to a news release by SJBPH, 44 of them are strongly suspected of exposing 103 domestic pets, 55 livestock animals and 13 people.
Humans can be infected with the disease from being bitten by a rabid animal, and it’s possible for any wild mammal – such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes and bats – to be infected with rabies.
In the summer of 2017, 11 bats and seven skunks were tested for rabies, and one bat and three skunks tested positive. Also in 2017, five people in Southwest Colorado received rabies post-exposure treatment from contact with rabid wildlife.
Precautions must be taken if pets are suspected of having contact with wild animals, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Rabies Prevention and Control Policy.
In Colorado, bats are known to be common carriers of rabies, and SJBPH has strict guidance for post-exposure treatment.
If a bat has been present in a room where people have slept, it’s important to safely trap it and submit it for testing. If a bat can’t be tested or multiple bats have been in a domestic space, post-exposure treatment for those who occupy the home is recommended.
The health department recommends these tips for rabies prevention:
Do not touch wild animals, living or dead.“Bat proof” the home: keep doors and windows closed, check window screens for holes and ensure vents in attics are properly screened.Seek professional animal control if workplaces or homes are inhabited by bats or skunks.Never feed wildlife.Ensure rabies vaccinations are current for all pets and livestock.To report an encounter with a suspect animal, call 247-5702.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/rabies.