Area bat found with rabies, vets caution
EAGLE COUNTY ” County Animal Services suggests that all pets be vaccinated for rabies after a dead bat found in an area home tested positive for the virus.
The virus, which attacks the central nervous system and can be transmitted to humans, is transmitted through saliva, said County Animal Services director and veterinarian Natalie Duck.
Humans can catch it through a direct bite or through any open cuts and scratches on the skin, she said.
While it is very rare that domestic pets get infected with rabies, people need to be aware of the threat and make sure their pets’ shots are up to date, Duck said.
“I don’t want people to panic every time they see a bat,” she said, “but vaccinating pets is a very important part of protecting people and their families from exposure to rabies. The rabies vaccine essentially provides a buffer between wildlife and people.”
The first vaccine an animal has is effective for a year. After that, the vaccine needs to be updated every three years. Vaccines usually cost about $40, although it varies depending on the veterinarian, Duck said.
Bats are the main carriers of the virus in the area ” about 15 percent of bats have the virus. The last bat to test positive was in 1997.
The danger to pets and humans comes when bats get stuck and die in the rafters of homes or a pet finds or kills one. A good preventative measure is to check attics and rafters to make sure no bats have gotten in, Duck said.
People should also keep animals indoors at night and make sure their outdoor cats and dogs are kept away from wildlife, said Eagle-Vail veterinarian Charlie Meynier.
If a pet has been infected, owners should look for several stages of symptoms in their animals.
Early signs the first few days of infection range from erratic behavior to slow reflexes to excessive salivation. After the first few days the virus attacks the central nervous system, causing aggressive and frantic behavior.
The last stage is characterized by “dumb” behavior. Pets can become disoriented and even have seizures. Usually by this stage, the virus is fatal in animals, Meynier said.
If a pet or human has been infected, the key is getting treatment early, he said. “You want to seek attention rapidly. You want to treat it within 7 to 10 days.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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