A La Plata County man is receiving rabies vaccinations for a bat bite received Sunday at the BMX track at Cundiff Park along the Animas River across from Bodo Industrial Park.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of people and animals. It is fatal if it goes untreated.
The bat at Cundiff Park wasn’t captured, but its behavior was typical of a rabid bat, Bari Wagner, epidemiologist at San Juan Basin Health Department, said Thursday.
The bat was flying in the early afternoon, which is unusual, Wagner said. Biting a human also is not normal for bats that aren’t rabid, she said.
“Bats hunt insects, so it’s highly likely that this one was sick,” Wagner said.
Anyone who was at Cundiff Park on Sunday and may have had direct contact with a bat is asked to call Wagner at 335-2028.
Two bats in Archuleta County and one in La Plata County have tested positive for rabies this year, Wagner said.
In the last two years, 11 people in the two counties have received rabies shots, Wagner said.
The vaccination protocol is two shots initially and one each on days three, seven and 14.
Anyone who has been exposed to rabies would do well to receive the shots, Wagner said. Exposure doesn’t mean a bite, but simple contact, such as picking up a bat or receiving a glancing blow.
Bat teeth are so small a person could be unaware of being bitten, Wagner said. A person who wakes up in the night to find a bat should try to capture the animal for testing.
The procedure is laid out on the health department website: www.sjbhd.org/rabies. The website also has links to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If a bat can be captured, a test will determine if it’s rabid, Wagner said. The test costs $65, and results usually are available within 24 hours.
A series of shots can cost $2,000 to $3,000, she said.
“If shots are required, we try to get them started within 72 hours,” Wagner said. “If a person develops symptoms, the shots won’t have any effect.”
Symptoms can mimic the flu or cause agitation, confusion, an unsteady gait or overall weakness, Wagner said.
Parents are advised to educate their children to not handle wild animals, Wagner said.
Bats are the most common carriers of rabies in Southwest Colorado. But raccoons, skunks and foxes also can carry rabies.