The Colorado Department of Health reported recently that the state lab determined that a bat found at Hidden Lake Apartments at West 68th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard on Aug. 4 tested positive for rabies.

Brown Bat
Myotis lucifugus, or Little Brown Bat/CDC

Westminster Police Department received a report that a group of approximately 16 children were seen playing with the injured bat outside the apartment complex. Animal management officers submitted the bat to the state laboratory on Aug. 4 for testing, and the lab confirmed it to have rabies on Aug. 6. It is unclear at this time if any of the children were exposed. Public health officials advise anyone who many have handled this bat to receive immediate medical treatment. Rabies is a serious disease that affects the nervous system and is fatal if left untreated, but treatment is effective if potential exposures are discovered early.

This afternoon, officials are working together to make contact with the individuals involved and warn residents of the presence of the rabid bat. Animal management officers are on site assisting in identifying and locating the children involved. Public health officials from Tri-County Health Department are posting flyers warning of the presence of the rabid bat around the apartment complex, and epidemiologists from CDPHE are conducting interviews to determine the extent of exposure.

“Anyone who may have handled a bat or learns their child had contact with a bat, should immediately contact their medical provider and state health department at 303-692-2700,” said Dr. Jennifer House, state public health veterinarian.

CDPHE officials agree that even seemingly insignificant contact with a bat may be sufficient to transmit the rabies virus. Rabies is spread most often through contact with bat saliva, as a result of bites or from exposure to cuts on a person’s skin. The bat was found outside and is not known to have entered any apartments. People who had direct contact with the bat may be unaware that they were bitten and may not see bite marks.

Colorado residents can be reassured that only a small percentage of bats are likely to be carrying rabies, but it is important to avoid contact with all bats. The public should contact their local animal control to collect bats for rabies testing when an exposure is suspected.

Steps to control and prevent rabies:

  • Avoid stray and wild animals.
  • Vaccinate cats, dogs, ferrets and livestock.
  • Do not allow pets to roam freely.
  • If bitten or scratched by a pet or wild animal, immediately wash any wounds with soap and water and contact your family doctor.
  • 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 wildlife control operator who has experience eliminating bats from homes.