April 20, 2023
Seasonal animal activity is prompting the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) to issue a warning regarding the ongoing threat posed by rabies, a deadly but preventable disease.
Any mammal, including humans, can get rabies; in Wyoming, bats and skunks are the primary sources and can spread rabies to people and pets by bites or scratches.
Dr. Emily Curren, state public health veterinarian with WDH, said there have been three confirmed rabies cases so far this year in Sheridan County skunks. Last year, there were 14 confirmed cases of animal rabies across the state, including five in bats.
“Bats are a particular concern in our area. One reason is because bat bites can be very tiny and not always visible,” Curren said. “Anyone with direct contact with a bat or anyone sleeping in the same room where a bat is discovered should be assessed by a doctor or public health provider.”
Curren also suggested bats that come into contact with humans or found in a sleeping area should be carefully captured if it can be done safely so that rabies testing can be performed.
“Anyone with potential exposure to a rabid animal should wash the wound thoroughly with warm water and soap, and seek medical advice about the need for what we call rabies post exposure prophylaxis treatment,” Curren said.
“When started after exposure and before symptoms develop, this type of treatment is nearly 100 percent effective at preventing rabies,” Curren said. “Unfortunately, rabies is nearly 100 percent fatal if treatment is not started before symptoms develop.”
General tips for preventing rabies include:
- Don’t touch or feed wild or stray animals.
- Treat animal bites with soap and water and contact a medical professional immediately.
- People waking to find a bat in their room or a child’s room should contact a medical professional immediately.
- Vaccinate dogs, cats, ferrets, horses and other selected livestock for rabies and keep vaccinations up-to-date.
For more information about rabies exposure in Wyoming, please visit https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/rabies/.