How to identify if an animal has rabies, how to protect your pets and more things you should know about the disease.
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A cat found just east of Colorado State University in Fort Collins tested positive for rabies — and if you interacted with it, you might need treatment.
Larimer County Department of Health and Environment said the younger, gray cat was found near Laurel and Mathews streets, warning anyone who touched or fed a cat matching that description between July 23 and Aug. 7 to contact their health care provider or the department.
Rabies, which infects the nervous system and causes brain-swelling, is spread through the saliva of an infected animal, most commonly through a bite, according to the health department. It can also get in a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or an open sore or wound.
The virus is preventable but is fatal once symptoms appear. In humans, that can take four to eight weeks or even up to a year, according to the health department.
Humans should receive the preventative treatment within seven days of exposure or sooner. Pets can be protected through the rabies vaccine, but no effective post-exposure treatment currently exists, according to the health department.
Any warm-blooded animal can carry the virus, but bats have historically been the main source of exposure in Larimer County. Rabid skunks are a rising risk for transmitting rabies, according to the health department.
So far this year in Larimer County, seven bats, 39 skunks and one cow have tested positively for rabies in addition to the cat, according to Larimer County’s online rabies map. Last year, six bats, 45 skunks and one coyote tested positive for the virus.
Rabies on the rise: Larimer County has more rabies cases than rest of Colorado combined
What if I came in contact with the cat described (or another animal at risk)?
Contact your health care provider or call Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, 970-646-1756, to see if you need the preventative treatment.
That’s recommended anytime you’ve had contact with a bat, skunk or other wild animal as well as:
- If you’ve had contact with a feral cat or stray animal
- Found a bat in an area where you were sleeping
- If you’re not sure if a child or adult who can’t communicate had contact with a bat or other potentially rabid animal
If you were bit by an animal in an enclosed area, try and keep it there and seek medical treatment. Don’t release the animal because it can be tested for rabies if it’s caught, and you can avoid preventative care if the animal tests negative.
What if my pet was exposed to the cat or another potentially rabid animal?
Any animal encounters need to be reported to Larimer Humane Society’s animal protection and control, 970-226-3647 ext. 7., or to Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.
If your pet hasn’t been vaccinated for rabies, they may have to undergo quarantine or be euthanized.
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What are some signs an animal has rabies?
Here are a few:
- A normally nocturnal animal such as a skunks or bat active during the day
- It’s stumbling, weak, or paralyzed
- It shows unusually aggressive or tame behavior while approaching humans or pets
How can I prevent rabies?
Here are some tips from Larimer County Department of Health and Environment:
- Vaccinate your animals
- Don’t keep wild animals as pets
- Don’t touch wild or feral animals
- Stay away from animals displaying unusual behavior
- Prevent contact between pets and wildlife. Obey leash laws.
- Feed your pets inside and don’t leave pet food outside.
- Put trash in secure bins and animal proof if needed.
- Keep wildlife from getting into your house.
Money is tight right now. Where can I get my pets vaccinated?
Fort Collins Cat Rescue & Spay/Neuter Clinic offers low-cost vaccine clinics at least once a week at its Fort Collins location, 2321 E. Mulberry St., Unit 3. Visit www.fccrsnc.org/Service_LowCostVaccineClinic.php for more information.
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