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BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) – As the state’s furry fliers exit their hibernation season, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials want the public to brace themselves for the potential of coming in contact with rabies, especially after an infected bat was discovered earlier this month.

According to Boulder County officials, back on May 9, a resident found a dead bat on their property located near the intersection of Nelson Road and Airport Road. After contacting the City of Longmont, the animal’s remains were transferred over to Boulder County Public Health, where it tested positive for rabies.

“Bats are starting to migrate, and when they’re on the move, that means more contact with people and pets,” Boulder County Public Health Environmental Health Specialist Carol McInnes explained. “As temperatures get warmer, everyone will be spending more time outdoors, so keep an eye on your pets and make sure their vaccinations are up to date.”

According to public health officials, all potentially impacted pets have since been assessed. Fortunately, those animals were either inoculated for rabies prior to the discovery of the rabies case or had a healthy history of veterinary exams.

Rabies in the state of Colorado

Rabies typically transfers through scratches or bites from an infected specimen to another animal. The sometimes undetectable viral disease targets the central nervous system and is typically fatal, but if it’s treated quickly with the prescribed series of vaccinations, then it poses less of a risk.

Of all bats that have been submitted in the state for testing, 15% returned positive results for rabies.

According to Bat Conservation International, rabies transmitted from the species leads to one human death in the United States per year. However, the stigma attached to the animal is posing a threat to the flourishing of this pivotal member of the Coloradan ecosystem.

In the most recent year of reporting for the United States, bicycle accidents killed 800 people, bee stings resulted in 95 deaths and dog attacks led to 20 deaths. This makes rabies the second-rarest disease in the country behind polio.

If you, your child, or your pets have crossed paths with a bat, you should contact Boulder County Public Health by calling 303-441-1564.

How to reduce the risk of rabies exposure

  • Never handle wild or domestic animals you do not know.
  • Always thoroughly wash any wound created by an animal bite or scratch. Follow this by seeking medical attention.
  • Keep your beloved pet’s vaccination statuses up to date.
  • If you, someone you know or your pets are either bitten or exposed, contact your local public health department.
  • Proceed with caution on this step, but if possible, contain the bat and get your local animal control officer to aid you in its capture.

If you encounter a sick or injured bat, be sure to never handle it directly by hand. If you are attempting to contain the animal, be sure to use the proper protective gear, like heavy gloves or tongs.

Always call your local health department and if your pet was bitten or had a bat in its mouth, reach out to your veterinarian as soon as you can.