DENVER (CBS4)– A wild bat that was not part of the Denver Zoo’s collection, has tested positive for rabies.
The bat was found at the zoo’s primate exhibit on Saturday. A zoo staff member safely captured the oddly-behaving bat and took it to the zoo’s veterinary hospital. The sick bat was humanely euthanized and sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for rabies testing.
“Within minutes everybody responded as fast as they could to this scene,” said Denver Zoo spokeswoman Tiffany Barnhart.
While some zoo visitors were in the same area as the bat, there were no reports of anyone making contact with it. To be safe, the zoo and the department are looking for visitors who were in close proximity to the bat.
Ten people were interviewed who are known to have been by the bat. No one was bitten by the bat.
“People who were at the zoo Aug. 2 should know about the rabid bat,” said state public health veterinarian Dr. Jennifer House. “Anyone who may have handled or touched a bat at the zoo, or learns their child had contact with a bat, should immediately contact the state health department at 303-692-2700, or their medical provider for advice, to determine whether they should receive preventive therapy for rabies.”
All the mammals at the Denver Zoo are already vaccinated for rabies. The zoo said no other animals were infected.
When asked if the zoo could be sure the disease hasn’t spread around the zoo, Barnhart replied, “The disease only spreads through saliva, so you would have to be bitten.”
Rabies cases are almost always fatal. Health officials said anyone who believes they may have been in contact with a bat should be examined.
“Bats present a unique challenge in that bats have very small teeth and individuals may not know if a bat has bitten them,” said House.
Rabies is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. Bat teeth are small and sharp, and a wound from a bat bite may not be visible, so anyone who has had contact with a bat should be evaluated for exposure. From January to July of this year, 59 animals have tested positive for rabies in Colorado. Thirty-five of the animals were bats, and 19 were skunks.
To avoid exposure to rabies:
- Never touch a wild bat or any other wild animal. If you can touch the animal, chances are it is sick.
- Teach children who find a bat to leave it alone and tell an adult.
- Do not pick up a bat with your hands, even if you’re wearing gloves. Use a shovel.
- If you are bitten by a bat, suspect you’ve been exposed to bat saliva, or awake to find a bat in the room where you are sleeping, contact your medical provider.
- 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, call a professional trapper who has experience eliminating bats from homes.
- Keep your pets up to date on rabies vaccines. If you are unsure your pets are up to date, call your veterinarian.
- For additional information on rabies please visit https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/rabies-data.
The bat is a “big brown bat” and is native to Colorado and can be found almost anywhere in the state. They are the most common carrier of the disease. The one found at the zoo could have come from nearby City Park or one of the surrounding neighborhoods.