A bat was recently confirmed to have rabies, making it the 10th animal to test positive for the disease in El Paso County this year. Rabies 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.
Rabies is a virus that infects wild mammals, especially bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. Squirrels and rabbits are not considered a rabies risk.
“Awareness and prevention are the most important tools Public Health and the community have to protect our pets, families and selves from rabies and other infectious diseases,” said Dr. Robin Johnson, medical director at El Paso County Public Health. “We want to continue to share these best practices with everyone in the community so they can make informed decisions and remain safe.”
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 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: 10 (1 bat, 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)