WELD COUNTY - Two students from the University of Northern Colorado are undergoing rabies treatment after attempting to rescue a bat which later tested positive for the disease.
On Tuesday, the student found the injured bat on the corner of 14th Street and 10th Avenue in Greeley.
Determined to nurse the bat back to health, they put it in a cage and took it back to their dorm room. The bat later tested positive for rabies.
"Northern Colorado has a serious rabies problem, and it's best to leave all wild and unknown animals alone" Trevor Jiricek, Environmental Health Division Director at the health department, said.
The department says the students remain healthy and will continue classes during treatment.
The Weld County Health Department has confirmed 25 animal rabies cases in 2013 including 14 skunks, six bats, two horses, one cow, one fox and a cat.
"Overall we are having the same number of cases, but what we're seeing is a diversification of the types of rabies in these mammals," Eric Aakko, from the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment said. "So in past years we've seen it in skunks and bats but, this year we're seeing just more rabies in different types of animals such as foxes cats, horses and cows."
Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Rabies causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and is nearly always fatal.
It is transmitted in saliva through the bite of an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted in saliva to an open cut, scratch or wound. If a person suspects they have been exposed to rabies, they should contact their medical provider immediately. Effective vaccination treatment is available to prevent rabies if started before symptoms appear.
"What we're really trying to say to the public is definitely don't touch or pet any wild animal, but also don't touch or pet an animal that you may not be familiar with, Aakko said. "If it's a friend's dog or cat it's probably safe to touch it, but if you're walking along the sidewalk and a stray cat comes running up to you it's probably a good idea to avoid petting or touching it."
Signs of rabies are increased saliva and drooling, nocturnal animals seen out during the daytime, and slow or difficult movement. Other signs include aggressive or sick behavior.
To prevent exposure to rabies:
- Do not feed, touch or handle wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats
- Have dogs, cats, horses, and livestock vaccinated regularly by a licensed veterinarian
- Spay or neuter pets to reduce the number of unwanted or stray animals in the neighborhood
- Keep pet food inside and secure trash can lids to keep animals away from homes.
For questions related to rabies, call Cheryl Darnell at 970-304-6415, extension 2270 or Jo Peden at 970-304-6420 extension 2348. A map of Weld County rabies cases can be found at: http://www.co.weld.co.us/Departments/HealthEnvironment/ZoonoticDiseaseSurveillance.html
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