By Bryan Goodland; courtesy photos
It is not all that frequent that we in the Castle Pines community come into contact with animals that are common carriers of rabies (skunks, bats, raccoons, foxes and coyotes). However, they are ever present in the vast open spaces that surround us, and they do pose a threat to domesticated animals, and ultimately people.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has confirmed three cases of rabies in Douglas County this year. The three cases in Douglas County were all skunks, which are among the most common carriers (bats being the second).
The CDPHE collects data on rabies cases of all species in Colorado. To date in 2019, the department has recorded 65 cases – 49 rabid animals that went on to infect 97 domestic pets, 48 livestock and 16 people. To put those numbers in perspective, in 2018 there were a total of 325 animals that tested positive for rabies and a total of five for Douglas County.
According to our local Tri-County Health Department, rabies is a viral disease that can spread quickly, which is why it is tracked so carefully. The disease is usually spread by a bite or a scratch to either a domesticated animal or to a human in contact with a diseased carrier. The rabies virus gets into the central nervous system and can cause a fever, headache and an overall sick feeling. If the virus is left untreated for several days, it can infect the brain and eventually cause death.
Domestic animals should be given rabies vaccinations, especially those that have possible contact with wild animals. Rabies symptoms can fall into two categories, one where animals are combative and have unusually aggressive behavior such as excessive biting; the other where the animal’s behavior is lethargic, it is weak in one or more limbs, or it is unable to raise its head or make sounds because its throat and neck muscles are paralyzed.
If you or a family member has been in contact with an animal that could have rabies, seek medical attention and contact the Tri-County Health Department at 303-220-9200. For people, the treatment comes after the infection and includes a dose of immune globulin and then a successive treatment of four shots of the rabies vaccination over a course of 14 days. Note that not all animal encounters result in rabies infection, so consult a doctor to determine the best course of action.
For additional questions, contact the Tri-County Health Department at 303-220-9200 or visit www.tchd.org/rabies.