The transmission of rabies to humans by infected wild and domestic animals remains a threat to human health. Cases of rabies continue in Colorado today, although the last known human rabies case was in 1931. All mammals can get rabies and usually contract the disease by a bite from an infected animal. Because rabies affects the brain, signs in animals and people include abnormal behavior change. Nocturnal animals, like bats, may come out during the day. After a bite, it may take several months for rabies signs to develop, but once signs develop in humans or animals, the disease is fatal. Luckily, rabies is a preventable disease through vaccination and proper after-bite care.
All domestic pets, including horses and livestock, should be vaccinated against rabies. Your veterinarian can vaccinate your animals for rabies, which is required for pet licensing in the towns of Delta County. If you live in incorporated parts of Delta County, contact your town hall to see if licensing is required. Although licensing in unincorporated Delta County is currently not required, rabies vaccination is still strongly recommended to keep you and your pet safe.
Reporting and Testing
All dog bites are required to be reported to the Delta County Health Department in order for the dog to be quarantined and observed. The Health Department does not test skunks, bats, or other wild animals. If a domestic animal is bitten by a wild animal, you should contact the Environmental Health Department by calling 970-874-2165 to fill out a bite report. See the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) diagram for determining exposure risk.
For cats, dogs, and ferrets, attempt to locate the animal and, if necessary (in the case of a dog bite), report to animal control . Next, assess the need for post-exposure treatment:
- Geographic area: West Slope is considered low-risk for rabies. If the pet has been bitten by a wild animal, this increases the risk.
- Known animal vs. stray (stray dogs would be at higher risk)
- Healthy acting vs. neurological symptoms (erratic behavior or movement, "rabid" behavior)
Call the Environmental Health Department at 970- 874-2165. or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at 303-692-2700 to report the case if you feel the animal is at high risk for testing.
To decrease the risk of rabies, do not handle wildlife or bats, and report any rabies suspects to an animal control officer. If bitten, wash the wound immediately and contact your physician if you suspect the animal was rabid. Remember, a bat bite or scratch is an emergency!