The Colorado Departments of Agriculture and Public Health and Environment have confirmed that a mule residing in Eagle County recently tested positive for bat variant rabies. This is the first case of rabies in domestic livestock in Colorado this year and the first case of rabies in an equine in Colorado since 2013.
The spillover of bat variant rabies into domestic animals and wildlife is less common than skunk variant rabies in Colorado but is still possible.
“Rabies exposure to livestock is an ongoing risk in all areas of Colorado,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Keith Roehr. “This latest case serves as an important reminder of the need for rabies vaccination for domestic animals statewide--not just in areas where skunk variant rabies is established.”
Rabies can spread from wild animals such as bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes to other mammals, including domestic pets and livestock. Rabies is a deadly disease and vaccination is the single best method to protect pets and livestock. One of the greatest risks of exposure to rabies virus for people is through contact with rabid domestic pets or livestock.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides statewide rabies surveillance data. Please visit their website for current rabies case information.
Rabies is a viral disease in mammals that infects the brain. Rabies symptoms typically fall into two types: “aggressive” and “dumb.” Animals with aggressive rabies are combative and have unusually aggressive behavior such as excessive biting. There is also a “dumb” form of the disease in which the animal is lethargic, weak in one or more limbs, and unable to raise its head or make sounds because its throat and neck muscles are paralyzed. However, there have been cases of rabid animals that are not acting obviously abnormal, so suspicion of rabies should not be limited to animals showing classic symptoms.
Rabies is spread primarily by saliva through the bite of a rabid animal. Once symptoms of rabies infection appear, there is no cure and the infection is fatal. People who have been exposed to rabies can receive medication treatment to prevent illness. For pets and livestock, routine rabies vaccination is the best way to protect animals from infection. Animal vaccination regimens vary, so livestock and pet owners are urged to discuss the vaccines with their local veterinarian. Pet vaccination is also required in many jurisdictions for licensure.
All species of livestock are susceptible to rabies; cattle and horses are the most frequently reported infected livestock species. All horses should be considered for vaccination against rabies. Rabies is considered one of the core equine vaccinations in the AAEP guidelines. Livestock that have frequent contact with humans (e.g. in petting zoos, fairs, and other public exhibitions) should be considered for vaccination against rabies, including species for which licensed vaccines are not available (extra-label use). Consideration should also be given to vaccinating livestock that are particularly valuable.
CDA rabies: https://ag.colorado.gov/animals/livestock-health/rabies
CDA reportable diseases: https://ag.colorado.gov/animals/livestock-health
CDPHE rabies: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/rabies