EAGLE COUNTY — Two instances of community members and pets coming into contact with bats have been reported to Eagle County officials in the past week and both bats have tested positive for rabies. The bats were found in Beaver Creek and Eagle and are the first laboratory-confirmed cases of animal rabies in the county this year. All known individuals with possible contact have been notified.
Bats consume thousands of tons of night-flying insects annually and are beneficial to a healthy ecosystem. However, Eagle County Public Health Director Jennifer Ludwig says bats may carry diseases that can spread to people and pets, so it’s important to avoid contact with them. While most bats do not carry rabies, grounded or easily handled bats or other wild animals are most likely sick or injured and should be avoided by untrained people.
Rabies is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. Rabies also can be transmitted by a scratch or if the animal’s saliva gets into a cut or break in the skin. To avoid exposure to bats and rabies:
• Never touch a bat or any other wild animal with bare hands. Teach children to leave animals they encounter alone and to tell an adult.
• Keep your doors and windows covered with screens to keep bats out of your home. Do not leave screenless doors or windows open during the evening.
• If you have bats in your house, then try to find the source of their entry and seal it. Call an experienced nuisance wildlife trapper to perform the work.
• If there is no possibility of contact, then simply open a door or window and let the bat fly out. Being in the vicinity of a bat, without any physical contact, is not a risk.
• If you are bitten by a bat or if you suspect you’ve been exposed to its saliva, then safely contain the bat in a cardboard box or coffee can without touching it and contact Eagle County Animal Services at 970-328-3647 so the bat can be tested for rabies.
• Seek medical treatment promptly if you come in direct contact with a bat or other wild animal and the animal is not able to be captured and tested. Possible contact may have occurred if a bat is found in areas of sleeping adults, unattended children, mentally incapacitated or intoxicated individuals, or unvaccinated pets. Bat teeth are small and bites may go unnoticed.
• Vaccinate your pets against rabies.
For more information about rabies, visit www.cdc.gov/rabies.