Three new human rabies exposures reported in Weld County | MyWindsorNow.com

Three new human rabies exposures reported in Weld County

Staff reports

Though it's been a mild year for rabies outbreaks, Weld County still has its share. A little more than a week ago, one adult and two children in unincorporated southeast Weld County were either bitten or scratched by a rabid feral cat.

"We are warning people to not touch or go near wild animals," said Dr. Mark Wallace, executive director of the Weld County Health Department, said in a news release. "It's also vital to vaccinate pets such as dogs and cats, including horses. Even pets such as outdoor barn cats should be vaccinated."

The three exposed individuals are receiving a preventative rabies treatment, according to Eric Aakko, spokesman for the health department.

All mammals, including humans, are at-risk for contracting rabies. "The risk of human exposure to rabies increases when pets and domestic animals are not properly vaccinated," said Wallace.

Rabies can infect many wild animals, including foxes, raccoons, coyotes and bats.

Health officials stress that all domestic animals such as cats, dogs, horses and livestock should be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian.

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Unvaccinated horses and bison have also contracted rabies in northern Colorado, the release stated.

So far in 2016, three bats, one cat, and one skunk have tested positive for rabies in Weld County, Aakko said.

"Rabies is endemic to the Front Range — sometimes we have worse cases, and sometime they are milder. This year has been fairly mild," Aakko said. "Previous years we've had up to dozen different skunks, bats, and raccoons being found and tested positive. But it's here. We're not surprised when we see rabies, it's here, in the wild animal population and we're going to have it here as long we have wild animals."

Signs of rabies include increases in saliva and drooling, nocturnal animals seen out during the daytime, and slow or difficult movement.

Other signs may be aggressive behavior, such as a skunk attacking a dog, the release stated.

Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that affects 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.

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

» Do not feed wild animals or keep pet food outside, which may attract wild animals.

For an interactive map of identified rabies in Weld County, click here.