Public Health encourages residents to protect themselves and their pets from rabies

El Paso County, CO – With the spring season upon us, El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH) encourages residents to take steps to protect themselves and their pets from rabies, which is more common during the spring and summer months.

“While diseases such as rabies tend to be more common this time of year, there are simple, easy steps that people can take to protect themselves and their pets from becoming ill,” said Dr. Chris Urbina, medical director for El Paso County Public Health. “It’s vital to keep pets up to date on vaccinations, including boosters. Keep pets on a leash when walking or hiking, and make sure they do not interact with wildlife. It’s also important for people to remember not to interact with wildlife, which includes feeding or caring for sick or injured animals.”

Rabies is a virus that primarily infects wild animals, especially bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Rabies is fatal if exposed by a bite or scratch from a rabid animal and not treated. Rabies spreads primarily through the bite of rabid animals, via infected saliva. Rabies can also be spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into open wounds or cuts, or enters through membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth. Learn more about rabies here.

Preventive vaccination is available for people known or suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal. It is important for people who have been bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal to contact their doctor immediately.

Take these precautions to protect people and pets against rabies:

  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies by using a licensed veterinarian. Rabies shots must be boosted, so check your pet’s records or talk to your veterinarian.
  • When walking or hiking with your dog, protect them and wildlife by keeping your dog on a leash.
  • Keep cats and other pets inside at night to reduce the risk of exposure to other domestic animals and wildlife. Keep dogs within your sight (in a fenced yard or on leash) during the day while outside.
  • What to do you if or your pet have been exposed by a scratch or bite from a wild animal:
    • If you believe your pet has been exposed, contact your veterinarian and EPCPH immediately.
    • If you or a family member has been exposed, contact your doctor and EPCPH immediately.
    • You can report exposures through EPCPH’s bite report portal. You can also reach EPCPH at (719) 578-3220, or (719) 235-2278 after hours.
  • Bat bites can be difficult to detect because they may not leave a mark. If you find a bat in your house and are unsure how long it has been there, do not release, discard, or kill the bat. Contact EPCPH at (719) 578-3220. This is so that EPCPH can test the animal for rabies and make recommendations on treatment if needed.
  • Seal houses to prevent bats and other animals from nesting, and if already present, use a professional removal service.
  • Do not touch or feed wild animals. Wild animals such as skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available. Do not leave pet food outdoors.
  • If you encounter a lost or stray dog or cat, contact the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region at (719) 473-1741.

How to recognize sick or diseased wildlife:

  • Healthy, wild animals are normally afraid of humans. Foxes are active at night but can also be seen out during the day, especially if they are looking for food for their pups.
  • Sick or diseased animals often do not run away when spotted by people.
  • Wildlife suffering from rabies will often act aggressively and violently approach people or pets.
  • However, sometimes rabid animals are overly quiet and passive and want to hide. If they are hiding, leave them alone. Rabid wildlife might also stumble or have trouble walking.
  • Report sick or diseased animals to Colorado Parks and Wildlife at (719) 227-5200.

###

Michelle Beyrle
Public Health Information Officer
719-244-1947
El Paso County, CO