PUEBLO, Colo. -

The Pueblo City-County Health Department says it's seeing an increase in the number of people who are having potentially dangerous interactions with bats.

22 people have started rabies vaccine after coming into contact with bats. The health department says a total of six bats have tested positive for rabies in Pueblo County so far this summer.

“It is important to know bats are in all areas of Pueblo County, from city neighborhoods to the mountains,” Public Health Director Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods said. “Anyone who was near a bat is at risk for rabies as bats need to be tested when human contact has occurred.Try to contain the bat without touching it and contact animal control to pick the bat up at 544-3005. Press “0”.

The Pueblo City-County Health Department works closely with Pueblo Animal Services to test bats and other animals for rabies.

Rabies is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. Bat teeth are very small and sharp; a wound from a bat bite may not be visible. Rabies also can be transmitted by a scratch or if the animal’s saliva gets into a cut or break in the skin. Just seeing a bat or being in the area, without any physical contact, is not a risk. Being asleep in a room with a bat may be a risk, as one may not know if they were bit. Rabies vaccine must be given to humans in a timely manner to prevent illness.

 “People can be exposed to rabies when they assist, feed, handle or come in contact with wild animals,” Dr. Nevin-Woods explained. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, bats found on the ground are much more likely to carry rabies."                                                                                                                                                            
Rabies has been found in wild skunks, foxes and bats throughout Pueblo County in recent years.

Pet and livestock owners are highly encouraged to vaccinate animals against rabies through a licensed veterinarian. Dr. Nevin-Woods said, “Un-or-undervaccinated dogs and cats exposed to rabies have an extremely high chance of getting infected and dying from the disease. These pets also pose a tremendous risk to humans because they can bring rabies into the home.”Dr. Nevin-Woods emphasized, “It is important to keep your pets up-to-date with their rabies vaccine, as pets that come in contact with bats or other wild animals that may have rabies and if the pet is not up-to-date with their vaccination, the pet may need to be euthanized."

To avoid exposure to rabies:

  • Never touch a wild bat or any other wild animal, and be cautious of stray dogs and cats. A healthy bat likely will not come near enough to be touched, therefore a bat that is slow, lying on the ground or lands on a person could be showing signs of illness. Bats out during the day are more worrisome. 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 to place in bucket or coffee can if the bat needs to be tested.
  • If you are bitten by a bat, other wild animal, or if you suspect you’ve been exposed to their saliva, try to contain the animal without touching it or monitor where the animal wanders off to.  Contact your local animal control agency 544-3005 press”0” for the animal to be collected for testing.
  • Keep your doors and windows covered with intact screens. Do not leave screenless doors or windows open in the evening.
  • If you have bats in your house, try to find the source of entry and seal it. If assistance is needed, look in the phonebook under “Pest Control” to contact a local pest control business who has experience on how to do this.
  • Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies.  Keep in mind that vaccines not administered by a licensed veterinarian are not considered valid vaccinations in the State of Colorado, including Pueblo County.