DENVER (CBS4) – A bat with rabies was found at the Denver Zoo and now a zoo visitor told CBS4 he had a bat stuck to his wheelchair.
The zoo wants to hear from anyone who may have encountered the bat. Zoo officials say they are simply reaching out as a precaution. One family who saw that warning say they ran across a bat in the middle of one of the pathways and even took a photo. They’re wondering if it was the same rabid bat.
Alex Akins and his family spent last Saturday at the Denver Zoo. While they were there they had a close encounter with a bat.
“It went under my chair at first, like it just sat under my chair and then it crawled up on my wheel,” Akins said.
The family believes it was the same wild bat zoo officials were warning about after zoo employees found a wild bat behaving oddly. It tested positive for rabies.
“This was not part of Denver Zoo’s animal exhibits. This was a bat native to Colorado. It could have been in City Park, it could’ve been in the golf course, it could’ve been in your back yard,” Tiffany Barnhart with the Denver Zoo said.
It’s now one of 35 bats in Colorado with confirmed cases. So far this year 24 humans have been exposed and treated either for known bites or as a precaution.
Jennifer House, a veterinarian for the state health department, says bats have such small teeth people might not even know they’ve been bitten.
“If you wake up to find a bat in the same room you’re sleeping, or you walk in to find a bat in the same room as your unattended child, those are situations where we would like you to actually submit that bat for testing,” House said.
House says that’s especially important this month as the numbers will likely jump as bats prepare for this winter.
“We do normally see an increase of bats this time of year. We have more bats at the lab and we end up seeing more bats test positive because of that,” House said.
House says although rabies cannot be spread simply by touching an infected animal, it’s best to avoid any skin-to-skin contact. Those who think they may have been exposed to bat saliva should contact a medical provider right away.
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.