Summer Brings Increase in Wild Animal Encounters
Each summer Grand County Public Health is notified of incidents involving humans being scratched or bitten by wild animals. We often recommend that these individuals receive a series of vaccinations to prevent rabies.
Rabies is a viral illness that may be passed to humans by many types of mammals including skunks, dogs, cats, bats, raccoons, and foxes. In the past 18 months, over 150 rabid wild animals have been captured from 27 Colorado counties, including an infected mule deer and an infected muskrat. Currently skunks are considered the main reservoir of rabies in Colorado. Animals infected with rabies may be very aggressive or unusually passive. Be wary of an animal that doesn’t flee when approached.
How to Decrease Your Risk
It is very important to avoid contact with wild animals and to teach children to avoid contact. They should know never approach an animal in the wild or attempt to catch or pick up a bat that may enter a building. Encounters with rabid animals can lead to rabies infection. Once the symptoms of rabies infection appear, the disease is almost always fatal. The vaccine, used in combination with rabies immune globulin, is highly effective in preventing infection, but requires five injections given at four separate clinic visits at a cost of over $1,500. Avoiding contact is by far the better choice!
Other strategies to decrease risk include:
Keep your pet’s rabies shots current
Feed pets indoors and never leave pet food outside where it can attract wild animals
Tightly close garbage cans and feed bins
Seal openings in homes, sheds, or barns where bats can enter
Remember: Don't feed wild animals including the cute deer, fox, and raccoon! Teach children not to feed or handle wild animals.