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Discovery of rabid bat triggers precautionary advice
El Paso County Public Health is trying to determine whether anyone may have come in contact with a rabid bat that was found dead Monday near a sidewalk outside the entrance to the Starsmore Discovery Center, 2120 S. Cheyenne Canon Road.
The health department said in a news release Thursday it's unlikely that anyone was exposed to rabies, but public health officials want to take precautions in case someone touched it, or finds out that a child or pet handled it. People who saw the bat but didn't have contact with it are not at risk.
People reported seeing a bat flying around during the day, hissing and landing on tree trunks near a bridge at the nature center on Saturday and Sunday.
Anyone who may have come in contact with the bat from Saturday through Monday should call El Paso County Public Health at 578-3220 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. After hours, call 339-3230.
A second rabid bat was in the area last month, said health department spokeswoman Susan Wheelan. But public health officials are not overly concerned that bat rabies is on the rise.
"We just want people to be aware," she said. "Most people know not to play with bats."
Rabies is a fatal disease that can spread from animals to people and other animals. The health department says it's estimated that less than 1 percent of bats are infected by rabies, but if a bat is found on the ground, the chances are greater that it has rabies.
The state health department says about 14 percent of bats tested for rabies in Colorado from 2005 through 2009 were positive.
As of July 27, there were 48 cases of lab-confirmed rabies in bats statewide for 2012. Boulder County had the highest number, with 11.
To avoid exposure to rabies:
- Never touch a wild bat or any other wild animal. A healthy bat likely will not come near enough to be touched, so a bat that is slow, lying on the ground or that lands on a person could be showing signs of illness. If you can touch the animal, chances are it is sick. Children who find a bat should leave it where it is and tell an adult.
- Do not pick up a bat with your hands, even if you’re wearing gloves. Use a shovel and double trash bags.
- If you are bitten by a bat or if you suspect you’ve been exposed to its saliva, try to contain the bat without touching it, and contact your local animal control agency or health department so the bat can be tested.
- Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies.