Commentary Search

Who Carries Rabies in Wyoming?

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Laura Lloyd-Owen
  • 90th Medical Operations Squadron
Rabies Reservoir Awareness:
In Wyoming, skunks and bats are the primary reservoirs for rabies. Since January 2011, 16 rabid skunks have been reported in Laramie County, many within the city limits of Cheyenne. To date, no rabid skunks or bats have been identified on base, but the potential exists. Although the percentage of rabies-positive bats is very low, the little brown bats in Wyoming have been known to carry rabies. Fortunately, most bats are negative for rabies, and are useful members of the ecosystem, eating insects such as mosquitos.

Report Unusual Animal Behavior:
Report any observance of unusual animal behavior to the 90th Civil Engineer Squadron customer service desk at 307-773-3175. This behavior can include: nocturnal animals moving about during the day; bats unable to fly; or particularly aggressive or unusually tame wildlife. In cases where potential human or pet exposure occurs, the rabies suspect is delivered to the base veterinary clinic for rabies testing and results will be sent to Public Health.

For base housing residents, report any bats inside or roosting on your home to Balfour Beatty at 307-637-6102. Bats can be problematic in older homes, especially the brick homes on base. The bats in this area live an average of six to seven years, with the oldest little brown bat species on record living 31 years. This is an unusually old age for a small mammal. Bats seem to prefer and will seek re-entry into homes they have the occupied in the past. This is one reason it is important to prevent their entry in the first place.
Ways to Minimize Animal Encounters:
· Secure your trash
· Feed pets indoors; do not leave pet food outside
· Bat proof your house
· Construct bat houses away from residential areas - one exists on base behind the base lakes
Why is Rabies so Deadly?
Rabies is a deadly virus, which attacks the central nervous system, causing acute encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. It is usually transmitted to humans by animal bites or, in some cases, by mucous membrane exposure. Once the virus reaches the nerves, it is essentially incurable. It is imperative to start preventive treatment immediately after any suspicious animal contact.

What to do if you are Bitten/Exposed:
If you are bitten by any animal, wash the wound with soap and water and seek prompt medical attention. If the biting animal is domesticated, get the owner's telephone number for follow-up verification of rabies vaccine status. All biting incidents will be reported to the 90th Medical Group Public Health section.

Special Considerations for Bat Exposures:
Be sure to seek professional advice from your health care provider for the following types of bat encounters: physical contact with a bat, even if bite marks are not seen; waking up in a room in which a bat is present; or finding a bat near an unattended child or pet.

The Public Health Clinic would like to remind members to respect all wildlife on base, and only observe them from a safe distance. Because pets can come into contact with rabid wildlife, keeping pets current on vaccinations is important. Make sure pets stay on a leash, and keep a close eye on them while camping or hiking. Advise children not to approach unfamiliar animals, including cats, dogs, and wildlife. Contact Public Health at 307-773-3040 for more information.