Summit County Public Health announced Friday that a rabid bat was found inside a home in the Peak 7 Neighborhood of Breckenridge. After the bat was removed and positively tested for rabies, the home’s occupants and animals had been screened and given recommendations on preventing the transmission of rabies.
Human-contracted rabies cases are extremely rare in the U.S., with only one to three cases reported nationwide each year. However, the virus is almost 100% fatal without swift medical intervention, and spreads mainly through the saliva of mammals. Skunks are the most common reservoir for the virus, followed by bats, raccoons and foxes.
Public Health Nurse Lauren Gilbert said that there had not been a positive rabies case in Summit County for several years, but that the disease is endemic to the environment and can pop up at any time.
Gilbert said that Grand and Routt counties had bats test positive for rabies this year, and that the state had 150 infected cases reported this year. That is a decrease from 2018, when 325 confirmed cases of rabies were recorded. Most cases are on the Front Range and in the southwest portion of the state.
Gilbert advised that anyone who finds a bat inside their home to call county public health at 970-668-9161 during normal business hours, Monday to Friday. Outside of business hours, the public should call the county’s non-emergency help line at 970-668-8600. An animal control officer will be dispatched to capture the bat for testing.
Gilbert asked residents not to attempt to capture, release or kill possibly rabid animals, as they need to be alive for testing.
If you suspect you have been bitten by a rabid animal, or have been exposed to one, seek medical attention immediately. The virus can be stopped in its incubation stage with a combination treatment involving immunoglobulin treatment and a course of prophylactic vaccines. However, once symptoms start appearing — including fever, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, hallucinations, abnormal behavior and delerium — the disease is almost always fatal.
Residents are also advised that bats are not an automatic threat to humans, and are beneficial for the environment, and to not attempt culling of the animals, which are important natural pollinators and pest controllers.