Rabies and Animal Bites

The rabies virus can be transmitted through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue. The most common mode of rabies virus transmission is through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Though rare, the transmission has been documented via other routes. 

It is important to remember that rabies is a medical urgency but not an emergency. However, decisions related to proper treatment should not be delayed.  If bitten or scratched by a suspect animal, wash any wounds immediately and contact your medical provider. Your doctor, and your local health department will decide if you need a rabies vaccination.  Also please report any animal suspected of having rabies to local law enforcement. 

The number of rabid skunks discovered across northeast Colorado is on the rise, so is the number of family pets that have come in contact with them.

If your pet has not been vaccinated for rabies and comes in contact with a confirmed rabid animal, the recommendation is euthanasia for your pet.

Rabies is usually 100 percent fatal once symptoms begin for animals and humans. Vaccinating your pet is your first line of defense in protecting your entire family from coming into contact with this deadly disease.
Vaccinations must be performed by a licensed veterinarian in order to be considered valid.

Don’t put your pets or your family at risk!
The purpose of our Rabies Control Regulations are to provide uniform regulations to help control the spread of this very dangerous and deadly disease. Historically bats have been the main reservoir for rabies in Colorado, however, since 2007 the number of skunks testing positive for rabies is increasing, especially in northeast Colorado. 

While bats still present a danger and should never be handled, skunks present a greater danger since they are closer to the ground and may seek shelter where pets and livestock live, increasing the opportunity of exposing your family pets.

Our rabies regulations address mandatory vaccinations for all dogs, cats and ferrets in northeast Colorado, the reporting of bites from animals, and confinement of animals that have bitten.

How to Avoid Rabies

 
  • Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals, and be cautious of stray dogs and cats. Rabid animals do not always appear vicious.
  • Teach children to leave wildlife alone. Be sure your child knows to tell you if an animal bites or scratches them.
  • Have your veterinarian vaccinate your pets and livestock against rabies and keep their vaccinations up to date.
  • Tightly close garbage cans and feed bins. Open trash and feed bags attract wild or stray animals to your home or yard.
  • Feed your pets indoors; never leave pet food outside as this attracts wildlife.
  • Keep outdoor pets in a fenced yard.
  • Avoid all contact with bats, especially bats found on the ground. If you find a bat on the ground, don't touch it. Report the bat and its location to your local animal control officer.
  • Promptly call your doctor for advice if an animal bites you. 

If you'd like more information, please contact our Environmental Health Manager:

Melvin Bustos
(970) 867-4918 x2262
melb@nchd.org 

Animal Confinement Following a Bite

 

Animals bite for a variety of reasons, sometimes to communicate, protect, express fear, etc.  When they bite humans it is not always an act of aggression or the fault of the animal.  However, in an attempt to protect the public health, regulations exist that deal with the control of rabies in animals and the possible spread of the disease to humans.

Rabies is a serious viral disease that is spread through the saliva of an infected animal and it can be fatal to humans if not treated.  Rabies deaths for both humans and domesticated pets in the U.S. have been very low, due in large part to the routine immunization of dogs and cats and from having an effective treatment available for human exposures.

However, while rabies cases are rare, it still persists in our environment and the potential to spread the disease exists.

Regulation

According to regulations in northeast Colorado any dog, cat or ferret that has bitten a human needs to be confined and observed at the owner’s/keeper’s expense for a period of 10 days from the date of the bite. 

Refusal to produce an animal that has inflicted a bite on any person constitutes a violation of the regulations and each day of refusal will constitute a separate and individual violation.

 

When an unvaccinated animal is exposed to a known rabies reservoir (skunk, bat, fox, or other wild animal) a strict 180-day quarantine is enforced; the first 90 days of which will be at an approved facility at the owner’s/keeper’s expense.

Confinement

Animals that have bitten humans are confined for a period of ten days from the date of the bite so they can be observed for symptoms of rabies.  Rabies is a serious virus that infects the central nervous system in humans, causing swelling of the brain.  It is transmitted through the bite or saliva of infected animals. Left untreated it will cause death. 

Release of the Animal

If the animal shows no symptoms of rabies during the confinement period and has a current rabies vaccination, it may be released. If the animal shows no symptoms of rabies and is not currently vaccinated, it will be vaccinated at the owner’s/keeper’s expense by a licensed Colorado veterinarian of their choice within 14 days of the animal’s release.  A copy of the vaccination certificate needs to be forwarded to the regional office of the Northeast Colorado Health Department. 

 

If the animal does exhibit signs of illness during confinement it will be reported to NCHD by the animal control facility or veterinarian.  The animal then needs to be taken to a licensed Colorado veterinarian of the owner’s/keeper’s choice, within NCHD’s jurisdiction and examined at the owner’s/keeper’s expense.

The findings of the examination need to be immediately reported to NCHD by the owner/keeper of the animal and the veterinarian.

For a complete copy of the Rabies Prevention & Control Regulations follow the link below.

How to Report an Animal Bite

 
If you or a family member has been bitten by a wild or domestic animal you should contact law enforcement within 24 hours. 

Since the responding agency will differ depending on what type of animal is involved, law enforcement will contact the appropriate agency for follow-up.

If you'd like more information, please contact our Environmental Health Manager:

Melvin Bustos
(970) 867-4918 x2262
melb@nchd.org 

NCHD District Headquarters

700 Columbine Street

Sterling, Co 80751

 

Call us:

1-877-795-0646

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