Jefferson County officials are urging residents to take precautions after a sick bat found in south Jeffco tested positive for rabies. Informational postings are being made available at the park and visitors are being told to avoid all stray or wild animals, keep all pets on a leash, stay away from and do not handle bats, and to also be wary of any bats seen during daylight hours.
Bats play an important role in our ecosystem. Worldwide, they are primary predators of enormous numbers of insects and pests that can cost farmers and foresters billions of dollars annually. According to Bat Conservation International, bats can eat as many as 1,200 insects in an hour. Bats often eat mosquitoes which can carry life threatening diseases such as West Nile Virus. Bats play key roles in keeping a wide variety of insect populations in balance.
But Jefferson County Public Health said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that most of the recent rabies cases in the United States have been caused by rabies virus from bats. Residents are urged to not handle wild animals and to beware of any bats or skunks seen during daylight hours. Bats that are active during the day (seen in places where bats are not usually seen, i.e. indoors, on the lawn) or any bat that is unable to fly should be considered possibly rabid and reported to the appropriate animal control agency.
Rabies is a fatal disease if left untreated. However, thousands of people are successfully treated each year after being bitten by an animal that may have rabies. A few people die of rabies each year in the United States, usually because they do not recognize the risk of rabies from the bite of a wild animal and do not seek medical advice immediately.
How to Prevent Rabies:
- Pet owners should be sure their pets have current immunizations for rabies and keep their pets from roaming free. Vaccination is essential to protecting pets and preventing further spread of the disease.
- Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
- Have all dead, sick, or captured bats/skunks tested for rabies if exposure to people or pets is suspected.
- Keep wild animals from entering homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas where they might contact people and pets. Seal up holes that might allow bats into your living quarters. Any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch should be caulked. Use window screens, chimney caps, and draft-guards beneath doors to attics, fill electrical and plumbing holes with stainless steel wool or caulking, and ensure that all doors to the outside close tightly.