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Recent rabies exposure case in Archuleta — precautions for all
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

San Juan Basin Health has received three potential rabies exposure inquiries in the past week.

One is from Archuleta County and the other two from La Plata County.

The case in Archuleta County involves a man who was bitten by a bat while moving it from the middle of a road. He is currently receiving a course of rabies shots as preventative treatment. As the bat was not available for testing, there was no way to determine if the bat was rabid. Therefore, the recommended action is to receive the six shots. Treatment is most effective when administered soon after infection. Without vaccination to prevent its onset, rabies is always fatal.

Summer brings an increased amount of time enjoying the outside along with increased risk of contact with bats — the primary carrier of the rabies virus — and other wild mammals, such as raccoons and foxes.

While just a small percentage of bats carry rabies, San Juan Basin Health Department reminds people to avoid contact with bats, in order to protect themselves from the risk of contracting rabies. Bari Wagner, communicable disease nurse for San Juan Basin Health says, “It is important that you avoid handling bats and that you remind children not to play with or touch bats; no matter how cool they seem to be.”

Additionally, people should not feed wild animals and should avoid close contact with them. Other mammals such as raccoons and foxes can carry rabies. One of the La Plata County cases involved two raccoons inside a person’s house, eating dog food. Although the person just received a scratch and the raccoons’ behavior did not seem unusual, the state health department still recommended treatment to be safe.

Approximately 16,000 to 39,000 come in contact with animals who potentially have rabies and receive the rabies vaccine each year. If you have been exposed: thoroughly wash any bite wounds with soap and water and contact your family doctor immediately or San Juan Basin Health at 264-2409, Ext 24.

It’s important to safely contain the bat to prevent others being exposed and keep until you can have it tested for rabies. For a factsheet on how to capture a bat and reducing your exposure, visit www.sjbhd.org/en/rabies.

Protect yourself

• Do not touch live or dead bats.

• Make your home or cabin “bat proof.” Keep your doors and windows closed, make sure your window screens don’t have any holes and keep your attic area free of bats by keeping all vents properly screened.

• Seek professional bat control advice if your work or home is inhabited by bats.

• If you have a pet dog, cat or ferret, make sure that it is vaccinated regularly against rabies.