Reducing the risk of rabies |

Reducing the risk of rabies

Lory Pounder
Vail, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Since a coyote tested positive for rabies for the first time in the state in at least 30 years, health officials are reminding residents to avoid contact with wild animals.

A laboratory of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed the rabies case from Prowers County in the southeastern part of the state.

The coyote was shot after attacking a person a couple of weeks ago, and the person bitten underwent preventative rabies treatment after the experience, according to a release by the health department.

While coyotes are not often found with rabies, the disease is quite common in bats with 30 to 60 confirmed cases in Colorado each year, said John Pape, an epidemiologist with the state department of health and environment.

Additionally, cases of rabies in cats, foxes, skunks and cattle throughout the past 20 years have often been due to exposure to bats.

Rabies is a fatal disease transferred by saliva that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. And despite the fact that the last human case of rabies in Colorado was in 1931, people need to be aware the risk exists and to stay away from all wild animals, health officials said.

Also, to prevent possible exposure, county public health experts cautioned resident and visitors to keep pets’ vaccinations up to date.

According to Dan Hendershott, Summit County environmental health manager, the last rabies cases identified in Summit County were in bats in 1999 and 1990.

“In addition to wildlife possibly having rabies, there are a number of other illnesses possibly transmitted by wildlife such a plague or tularemia,” Hendershott said in a release, reiterating the fact that people need to stay away from even small animals such as squirrels.

If you, a family member or pet has been bitten, hold the animal for rabies testing, then contact local animal control or environmental health immediately, he added.

Signs of rabies in wild animals include abnormal behavior such as nocturnal species being active during the day, animals approaching humans or other animals, difficulty walking and unusual vocalization. Also, some animals will be very aggressive while others may appear catatonic.

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