What is rabies and who can get it?
Rabies is a virus that affects the brain of mammals, which includes humans. Any mammal can get rabies. Bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes are rabies reservoir species. This means rabies can be permanently maintained in those types of animals by the constant spread of the virus. Traditionally here in Colorado, bats and skunks make up most of our infected wildlife population. Rabies is usually fatal once symptoms appear.
How is rabies spread?
The virus is found in the saliva, brain, and spinal fluid of infected animals. When any of the infected saliva or tissue (which contains the virus) meets an open wound, the eyes, nose or mouth, the virus can enter the body and infect. Most commonly rabies is spread when an infected animal bites another and the infected saliva gets into the open wound.
How can I tell if an animal has rabies?
Abnormal animal behavior is one key thing to look for, such as nocturnal animals, like skunks, seen during the day. Other signs include animals acting aggressive or tame, stumbling, weakness, paralysis, or bats on the ground unable to fly. Do not try to help animals who appear sick or injured.
How will I know if a bat or skunk has had contact with one of my animals?
It is very difficult to see a bat bite, even on a human who knows where he or she was bitten. Bat bites can leave no mark but can spread saliva and rabies. Skunk teeth also are small enough that it may be difficult to tell whether a pet has been bitten. Any animal that is found unattended or in close contact with a skunk or bat is assumed to be at risk for rabies unless rabies testing of the wild animal shows it is negative.
How can I protect myself and my pets?
- Have your veterinarian vaccinate your pets and livestock against rabies. Keep their vaccinations up-to-date!
- Do not feed, touch, or adopt wild animals. Also, be cautious of stray dogs and cats. Animals with rabies do not always appear vicious.
- Avoid all contact with bats, especially bats found on the ground. If you find a bat, don’t touch it. Report the bat and its location to Pueblo Animal Services at (719) 544-3005.
- Teach children to leave wildlife alone. Be sure your child knows to tell you if an animal bites or scratches them.
- Call your doctor right away if an animal bites you. Contact us at (719)583-4307 to report the incident.
- Feed your pets indoors; never leave pet food outside as it attracts wildlife.
- Keep pets in a fenced in yard or on a leash to keep them from contacting wildlife.