Jefferson County Public Health is encouraging residents to take precautions after more than a dozen wild animals were found to have rabies.
A bat found in Lakewood, near Morrison Road and Wadsworth Boulevard, tested positive for rabies on June 13 – the first in Jefferson County this year. In 2017, eight bats tested positive in the county.
Skunk rabies continues to be a concern across the metro Denver area, with 14 skunks testing positive for the disease this year in Jeffco, the most recent the week of June 8 in Lakewood.
This year Colorado has seen more rabies-positive animals than in all of 2017, and peak rabies season is far from over.
Though the bat had no known human exposures, one dog was exposed. The dog is current on its rabies vaccine and will be advised to get a rabies booster shot and placed under a 45-day home observation period.
The rabies virus, which is transmitted from infected animals through contact with their saliva or through bites, is nearly always fatal to animals and can be fatal to humans if left untreated.
Jefferson County Public Health recommends the following precautions to prevent exposure and minimize harm from the deadly virus:
- Vaccinate all domestic pets and valuable livestock against rabies and ensure vaccines are kept up-to-date. Now that rabies has been found in both skunks and bats within the county, 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. 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, contact your local animal control agency, or Jefferson County Animal Control at 303-271-5070. For more information about rabies, contact JCPH’s Animal Borne Disease Program, part of the Environmental Health Services Division, at 303-232-6301, or visit www.jeffco.us/2365.