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Greenwood Wildlife Raises Awareness by Dispelling Rabies Myths

Here at Greenwood Wildlife, we want to embark on a journey of discovery to debunk misconceptions and shed light on essential information regarding rabies. Therefore, we delve into the realm of rabies, a viral disease that sparks fear and misunderstandings. Nestled amidst the outskirts of Lyons, Greenwood is dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation, education, and conservation. Join us as we unravel the truth about rabies, dispel myths, and ensure that you have accurate information to safeguard yourself and the wildlife around you.

Understanding Rabies

Vaccine bottle and rabies definition

To combat the misconceptions surrounding rabies, it’s crucial first to gain a comprehensive understanding of this viral disease and its impact on humans and animals.

The rabies virus: Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system of mammals. It spreads to people and animals via saliva or blood, usually through bites, scratches, or direct contact with mucosa (e.g. eyes, mouth, or open wounds). It’s important to note that not all animals can transmit rabies, and it is more prevalent in certain species, such as raccoons, foxes, bats, and skunks.
The severity of rabies: Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal. (source: WHO)

Addressing The Misconceptions

Misconceptions about rabies can lead to unnecessary harm to wildlife. Let’s address some common myths and misconceptions surrounding this disease.

Myth #1 Wildlife with rabies are aggressive.
Contrary to popular belief, it is important to note that not all animals infected with rabies display aggressive behavior. While aggression can be a symptom, it is crucial to recognize that other animals may exhibit different signs, such as appearing lethargic, disoriented, or displaying unusual behaviors.

Myth #2 The symptoms of infection will appear quickly after a bite.
The incubation period for rabies varies depending on factors such as the location of virus entry and the viral load.

Myth #3 Those with rabies foam at the mouth.
The presence of excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth of an animal does not always indicate the presence of rabies. While this visual representation has become widely recognized with the help of the media. It is important to note that other symptoms, such as paralysis or difficulty swallowing, can also accompany a rabies infection.

Myth #4 If an animal known to be nocturnal is out during the day it means rabies.
While rabies can affect an animal’s behavior, such as making them more active or aggressive, diurnal activity alone is not a definitive sign of rabies. Animals may be opportunistic and adaptable in their foraging habits, particularly when pregnant.

Myth #5 You can test for rabies in an animal with a blood test.
To accurately diagnose rabies in animals, it is necessary to examine their brain tissue. As a result, if we suspect an animal has had contact with humans or exhibits symptoms of rabies, we follow a strict protocol from the Health Department that involves euthanizing the animal. This step is crucial and required for conducting the necessary tests to confirm or rule out the presence of the rabies virus.

Myth #6 Squirrels have rabies.
While it is true that rodents can contract rabies, including squirrels, their small size often means they succumb to the disease before showing noticeable symptoms. As a result, squirrels are not known to be significant carriers or spreaders of rabies. In fact, there is no recorded case of fox squirrels transferring rabies to humans in Colorado.

Myth #7 Babies are too young to have rabies.
It is important to recognize that rabies can be transmitted from a mother animal to her offspring. In some cases, there have been reports of rabies being passed from an infected mother to her babies, although it is not a heritable disease.

Preventive Measures

A picture of a vaccine bottles and syringe

Taking proactive steps to prevent the spread of rabies is essential for both human safety and the well-being of wildlife populations.

Avoiding wildlife contact: It’s essential to appreciate wildlife from a safe distance and avoid unnecessary contact. Avoid handling or feeding wild animals, as this increases the risk of exposure to rabies or other diseases. Additionally, many people mistakenly believe that hand-feeding young wildlife is a harmless act that differs from providing food to other backyard wildlife, such as birds through birdfeeders. However, it is essential to understand that feeding young wildlife, can have unintended and crucial consequences.

Avoid picking up roadkill: Rabies can be transmitted via blood and bodily fluids. Therefore, you can be exposed to the rabies virus through fluids in your eyes or a cut. If you find roadkill contact CDOT’s Safety and Traffic Engineering Unit at (303) 512-5100.

Vaccination for pets and livestock: Vaccinating your pets, including dogs or cats, is a crucial preventive measure. In addition, vaccinating livestock, especially if they come in contact with other livestock and humans regularly can be a great preventive measure.
Wildlife-proofing your property: Secure trash cans, seal entry points to your home, and remove potential food sources that may attract wildlife.

Promoting Awareness & Responsible Action

Here at Greenwood Wildlife, we prioritize the safety and well-being of both our dedicated staff and the community. As part of our commitment to public health, we have a requirement from the state that requires the immediate reporting of any bare-handed handling of animals that are considered rabies vectors to the local health department. This proactive measure ensures that proper protocols are followed to assess the risk of exposure and take appropriate actions to safeguard the individuals involved. We strongly emphasize the importance of taking preventative measures to prevent rabies, such as avoiding direct contact with wildlife and ensuring that pets and livestock are vaccinated against the disease. With our unwavering commitment to wildlife rehabilitation, education, and conservation, we strive to foster a harmonious coexistence between humans and wildlife. Together, we can continue to take responsible actions to support all to thrive in a safe and healthy environment.