Rabid bat bites man in North Routt

Victim captured animal; no other rabies incidents reported

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— A rabies-infected bat bit a man last week in North Routt County, authorities confirmed Thursday.

The bat entered a residence and bit the man on the finger, said Mike Zopf, director of the Routt County Department of Environmental Health. Zopf did not know the exact location of the incident. The county has not seen any other rabies cases this year, he said.

The bitten man "was coolheaded enough to capture the bat, and the bat was submitted for rabies analysis and found to be positive," Zopf said. He said privacy laws prohibit him from releasing the man's name or age.

The man took the bat to a veterinarian, and the county health agency sent it to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for testing, Zopf said. The state Health Department provided results within 24 hours, he said.

The man who was bitten returned home to Oregon and received treatment there, Zopf said.

"It's an unfortunate incident, but it's not terribly uncommon for bats to have rabies," he said. "But bats are an important part of the ecosystem, and you certainly want to avoid contact with them and do what you can to prevent them from entering your home."

That prevention can be tricky, because bats are migratory animals, Zopf said. If they appear in a house, the best thing to do is wait until they move on and then seal the points of entry, he said.

More bats have appeared in the area this summer because of increased moisture and mosquitoes, said Al Deeds, who owns Hilltop Wildlife and Pest Control. About 2 percent of bats have been exposed to the rabies virus, he said.

"We deal with bats all the time," Deeds said. "Generally, the people that have a problem are people with log homes and timber frame homes, and we have to go out and seal those up."

Older homes also are susceptible to bats, he said, adding that owners often have the animals in their attics or roofs and aren't aware of it. Deeds said people often confuse bat droppings for mouse droppings. They can check by rolling the droppings between their fingers. Bat droppings turn to dust, he said, and mouse droppings remain pliable.

Deeds noted that those checking droppings should wear gloves or wash their hands afterward.

People should be careful around all animals, Zopf said.

"The common sense thing is any wild animal should be approached with caution," he said. "There is an incidence of rabies in skunks on the Eastern Plains that the state is watching. I haven't seen that up here, but it's possible."

Otherwise, all's quiet on the animal-to-human disease front this summer, Zopf said. West Nile virus has slowed down, he said. The county gathers mosquitoes and submits them for testing each year.

"They've all been pretty much negative," Zopf said. His agency has sent in samples from one dead bird this year and found that it was negative for West Nile.

That's quite the switch, Zopf noted, as Colorado led the nation in West Nile virus numbers a few years ago.

Mosquitoes still are notorious carriers of disease, he said, though no human infections have been reported in Routt County this year. The insects seem to be buzzing around in higher numbers this summer, Zopf said, adding that people should take precautions to avoid getting bitten.

"It's more than an annoyance," he said. "There are a lot of mosquito-borne illnesses out there."

- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234

or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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