Rabies found in wild bat at Denver Zoo; visitors who came in contact with bat sought

DENVER - Officials at the Denver Zoo said a wild bat found at the zoo's primate exhibit tested positive for rabies.

A zoo staff member safely captured the oddly behaving bat on Aug. 2, 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.

While some zoo visitors were in the same area as the bat, official say 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.

"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."

"The safety of our visitors, employees and animals is our No. 1 priority," said Denver Zoo Director of Marketing & Communications Tiffany Barnhart. "Our staff followed all protocols to ensure the safety of our guests. However, we want to take every precaution, and that's why we are reaching out to folks who visited that day."

The zoo said its animal care and veterinary staff routinely vaccinate the animal collection for rabies and are not concerned that any of the zoo animals were infected.

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 health officials said:

  • 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.

Click for more information on rabies.

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