A bat found at the Rainbow Falls Historic Site near Manitou Springs was recently confirmed to have rabies, making it the 12th animal to test positive for the disease in El Paso County this year. People who may have come in contact with, or had their pets come in contact with, the bat are encouraged to contact the Public Health Communicable Disease Division at (719) 578-3220.
Rabies is a virus that infects wild mammals, especially bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. Squirrels and rabbits are not considered a rabies risk. The disease is more common in the summer months, and El Paso County Public Health urges people to protect their pets and families by taking the precautions listed below.
“We want to make sure that everyone remains safe around wildlife,” said El Paso County Public Health Communicable Disease program manager Kimberly Pattison. “People should stay away from animals that are acting abnormally, like a bat that is outside during daytime hours or unable to fly. Strange behaviors are indicators that the animal might be sick. The best practice is to always keep yourself and your pets at a safe distance from wildlife.”
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage, and is nearly always fatal once symptoms appear. Rabies spreads primarily through the bite of rabid animals, via infected saliva. Rabies can also be spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into open wounds, cuts or enters through membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Preventive vaccination is available for people known or suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal. It is important for people bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal to contact their doctor immediately.
Take these precautions to prevent rabies:
- Vaccinate your pets against rabies by using a licensed veterinarian. Rabies shots must be boosted, so check your pet’s records or talk to your veterinarian.
- When walking or hiking with your dog, protect them and wildlife by keeping your dog on a leash.
- Keep cats and other pets inside at night to reduce the risk of exposure to other domestic animals and wildlife. Keep dogs within your sight (in a fenced yard, or on leash) during the day while outside.
- Contact your veterinarian promptly if you believe your pet has been exposed to a wild animal.
- Do not touch or feed wild animals. Wild animals such as skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available – please do not leave pet food outdoors.
- If people or pets are bitten or scratched by an aggressive wild or unknown animal, call your doctor and report to El Paso County Public Health at https://www.elpasocountyhealth.org/report-an-animal-bite.
- Bat bites can be difficult to detect. If you find a bat in your house and are unsure how long it has been there, do not release the bat. Contact Public Health at 719-578-3220.
- If you encounter a lost or stray dog or cat, contact the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region for options at (719) 473-1741.
Reports of Confirmed Rabies in El Paso County, Colorado (2010-2019)
2019: 12 (3 bats, 7 skunks, 1 fox, 1 dog)
2018: 67 (6 bats, 60 skunks, 1 raccoon)
2017: 28 (7 bats, 21 skunks)
2016: 3 (bats)
2015: 6 (5 bats, 1 cat)
2014: 10 (bats)
2013: 8 (4 bats, 2 foxes, 2 skunks)
2012: 3 (bats)
2011: 15 (5 bats, 1 fox, 9 skunks)
2010: 17 (8 bats, 4 foxes, 5 skunks)