Bats Among Most Common Carriers of Rabies

By Claire Ninde

During the 2016 summer season, San Juan Basin Public Health submitted and tested 17 bats for rabies, one of which was positive. Bats are by far the most common carriers of rabies in Colorado. When a potential bat exposure occurs, SJBPH has strict guidance when recommending post-exposure treatment.

If a bat has been present in a room in which people have been sleeping, it is important that the bat is safely trapped and tested for rabies. If a bat cannot be tested or there are multiple bats in the home, post-exposure treatment is recommended.

Please contact SJBPH for guidance on safe capture, testing of bats, and follow-up.

It is important to keep vaccinations current for cats, dogs, and other animals. According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Rabies Prevention and Control Policy, precautions must be taken if there is suspicion that a pet has had sufficient contact with a wild animal that is unable to be tested, or has tested positive for rabies.

Humans get rabies from the bite of a rabies-infected animal (rabid animal). Any wild mammal, such as raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, or bat can have rabies and transmit it to humans through a bite. In 2016 eight people in southwest Colorado received the rabies post exposure treatment due to contact with wildlife.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Do not touch live or dead wild animals.
  • Ensure your residence is ‘bat proof’. Keep your doors and windows closed. Make sure your window screens don’t have holes, and keep your attic free of bats by making sure all vents are properly screened.
  • Seek professional bat control if your work or home is inhabited by bats.
  • Do not feed wildlife.

Individuals are urged to keep their pets and livestock current for rabies vaccination to protect them and your family.

To report an encounter with a suspect animal, please call San Juan Basin Public Health at 970-247-5702.
Learn more: to learn more about rabies and precautions, visit www.sjbpublichealth.org.

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