Highest rates of rabies in the state are in Larimer County
By Amber McIver-Traywick
As temperatures begin to rise both human residents of Larimer County and the animal populations are becoming more active in the outdoors. With that combination human and animal encounters increase and, with lab-confirmed cases of rabies in Larimer Country higher than anywhere else in the state, it’s wise to exercise extra caution. Currently 17 skunks have tested positive for the virus in the county compared to the next closest county Pueblo with four lab-confirmed cases.
The closest to Berthoud infected animals have been reported so far this year are two skunks west of Loveland. However, with increasing cases the chances of the virus spreading is probable.
Skunks have been the predominate animal county officials have confirmed with rabies, and bats are also common carriers. If you find a bat in your home health officials recommend you trap the bat in one room and contact Larimer Humane Society Animal Control. If it’s a situation where you are able to use leather gloves and a box or coffee can to set over the bat and then use the lid to move the bat into the container, that is also suggested. But be aware bats can get out of extremely tiny holes. The important part is, do not touch the bat with your bare hands. According to the Larimer County website the majority of human cases of rabies in the United States are associated with a history of waking up with a bat in the bedroom and releasing it without reporting the bat or receiving post exposure treatment. Whether you trap the bat yourself or wait on animal control, always make a report.
Rabies is transmitted though the saliva of an infected animals. This means if you get a bite or even scratch from any animal, whether it exhibits behavior that leads you to believe it does have rabies or not, you should get checked. It is not transmitted through blood, urine or feces of an infected animal and it is not spread airborne through an open environment.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects warm-blooded mammals. The rabies virus infects the nervous system and causes swelling of the brain, which eventually results in death. In the past bats have been found to carry the virus in Larimer County, but officials believe rabid skunks are expected to continue to pose a rabies risk year-round. Bats and skunks present the biggest concern for rabies, but any warm-blooded mammal can be infected with rabies. In Larimer County this has included raccoons, foxes, cats, and even bison. But, it’s important to remember the vast majority of bats and skunks do not carry rabies and pose very little health risk to people if there is no direct contact with people or pets.
Rabies is preventable by avoiding contact with wild animals and keeping your pets and animals up to date on their rabies vaccines. The unfortunate news is there is no treatment once an animal or human shows symptoms. Rabies is 100% preventable, but once a human or animal shows symptoms, it is almost always fatal.
If you are the unfortunate recipient of an animal bite, try to take note of what animal bit you, the details of what happened, and where the animal went. Immediately wash the wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes – this helps reduce the likelihood of rabies and other nasty bacterial infections.
Exposure to rabies should be treated preventatively in humans within seven days of exposure but the sooner the better. Pets and other domestic animals can be protected from getting this disease through vaccination, but there is no effective post-exposure treatment for unvaccinated animals. If you are exposed to the virus, you can be vaccinated against rabies. The vaccine is called rabies post exposure prophylaxis (PEP). It’s recommended you call your doctor to schedule the treatment without delay as time is of the essence.
For more information about rabies in Larimer County visit https://www.larimer.org/health/communicable-disease/rabies/human-rabies-exposure
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