by Pam Zubeck
El Paso County Public Health is warning residents that a "wild bat" (as opposed to a pet bat?) was found dead Monday near the sidewalk outside the Starsmore Discovery Center, 2120 S. Cheyenne Cañon Road.
The bat tested positive for rabies.
Although the agency has received no reports that anyone touched the bat, making the likelihood of exposure low, the county is taking steps to find out if anyone has been exposed.
Hence, the following advisory:
People have reported seeing a bat flying during the day and landing on tree trunks near the bridge at the nature center from Saturday, Aug. 4 through Sunday, Aug. 5. Anyone who may have handled or touched the bat, or learns that a child or pet had contact with the bat Saturday through Monday should contact El Paso County Public Health. Call (719) 578-3220, Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. To reach staff after these hours, please call (719) 339-3230.
Rabies is a fatal disease that can be spread from a bat to a person or pet by a bite or scratch, even if very small or barely noticeable. Any human or pet who may have been bitten or scratched by this bat is at risk for getting rabies. There is medication available for exposed people that will prevent rabies infection. Those who saw the bat or were in the area and had no physical contact are not at risk.
It is estimated that less than 1 percent of bats are infected with rabies. However, bats found on the ground are much more likely to carry rabies (5-18 percent), according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In El Paso County, this is the second bat that has tested positive for rabies in 2012.
To avoid exposure to rabies:
· Never touch a wild bat or any other wild animal. A healthy bat likely will not come near enough to be touched, so a bat that is slow, lying on the ground or that lands on a person could be showing signs of illness. If you can touch the animal, chances are it is sick. Children who find a bat should leave it where it is and tell an adult.
· Do not pick up a bat with your hands, even if you’re wearing gloves. Use a shovel and double trash bags.
· If you are bitten by a bat or if you suspect you’ve been exposed to its saliva, try to contain the bat without touching it, and contact your local animal control agency or health department so the bat can be tested.
· Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies.