Two bats tested positive for rabies at a private residence in Bayfield, prompting health officials to warn of the potential spread of the disease through wild animals.
A spokeswoman for the San Juan Basin Health Department said Thursday no human contact was reported, but health officials believe there is suspicion of domesticated animal exposure.
“If you think your pet or domestic animal has been exposed to rabies due to a wild animal bite, contact a veterinarian or SJBH immediately,” Michelle Wilson, a planning and communications specialist with the health agency, said in a news release.
Pet owners are required by state policy to take proper precautions when a domestic animal is suspected of having come in contact with a wild animal that may carry the viral disease, which is spread when an infected animal bites or scratches a pet. Measures include 45-day home observation or up to a 90-day quarantine in a facility followed by another 90-day period of isolation at home.
While less common, there are cases when humans contract the disease. In 2015, seven people in Southwest Colorado were infected and had to receive post-exposure treatment after an encounter with a wild animal. Common symptoms are tingling or twitching sensations around the bite, followed by fever, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, nausea and fatigue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said over the past century, modern medicine has drastically reduced the number of deaths from rabies from around 100 a year to just about two or three annually.
In the United States, annual public-health expenditures for rabies prevention and control range from $245 million to $510 million.
“Any wild mammal, such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote or bat can have rabies and transmit it to humans through a bite,” Wilson said. “Bats are by far the most common carriers of rabies in Colorado, including La Plata and Archuleta counties.”
The health department recommends humans do not touch live or dead wildlife, keep doors and windows closed, do not feed wildlife, keep up-to-date on vaccinations, and seek professional services if bats roost in homes or places of work.
Health officials ask residents to report any suspicion of an animal infected with rabies by calling 247-5702.