MORRISON, Colo. (KDVR) – It only took two days for health officials in Jefferson County to locate and verify the first case of rabies for 2023, serving as a quick reminder about the importance of limiting exposure to the potentially fatal viral disease.

On Jan. 2, Jefferson County Public Health personnel were called to a private residence in Morrison near West Belleview Avenue and South Wadsworth Boulevard in response to the presence of a skunk.

After health officials tested the skunk it was determined that those living in the home and their dogs, which according to JCPH are up to date on their rabies vaccination, had potentially been exposed to the rabies virus.

“While rabies cases are most frequently seen in warmer months, historically, Colorado does see some cases all year long,” environmental health specialist Rachel Reichardt said in a release from the county.

Those living at the home were advised to reach out to their doctors to talk about ways to mitigate their risk using post-exposure prophylaxis.

Rabies affects mammals’ nervous systems and is typically transmitted through the saliva of an infected specimen. It most easily spreads through bites and when infected saliva comes into contact with eyes, ears, mouth and open wounds.

The 15 rabies cases that JCPH confirmed in 2022

  • 8 skunks
  • 7 bats

When those that contract the virus do not seek immediate treatment, specifically post-exposure prophylaxis, the disease is almost always fatal.

There are some practices that JCPH suggests Coloradans take to improve their chances of contracting rabies.

Practices to help prevent rabies exposure

  • Avoid feeding or physically interacting with wild animals
    • A healthy animal typically avoids human interaction
  • Livestock, dogs and other pets should be up-to-date on their vaccines
    • Allowing them to roam free heightens their risk of exposure
    • If an animal is exposed to rabies and isn’t up-to-date, it will be put on a 120-day quarantine timeline and will be classified as high risk
  • Do not leave more food out than your livestock or pets can finish
    • Excess food can attract potentially infected wildlife
  • If your animal is exposed, wear gloves when cleaning them
  • If you have been bitten by an infected animal, a prompt and immediate response is key

Luck favors the prepared so if you have livestock or pets and you live in an area where wildlife is more readily present in your daily life, be sure to arm yourself with the knowledge on how to react if exposure to rabies arises.