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A biologist inspects a male bat while conducting a survey in 2015 along Poison Spider Creek outside Casper. 

Three bats in Casper have tested positive for rabies since June 7, health officials announced Thursday, marking a “significant increase from past years.”

According to a recent Casper-Natrona County Health Department report, there were just three cases of rabies in animals here between 2012 and 2016. There were no human cases over that time, and no human cases have been reported in association with the recent spike this summer.

Ruth Heald of the county health department said the rabid bats were spread out around Casper. Health officials haven’t had any samples submitted from elsewhere in the county, she said, but she suspected the rabies spike was not isolated to those three bats.

“We just really wanted to make the public aware that it is there and if they’re seeing bats, particularly during day, there’s something abnormal going on with the animal and they need to avoid it and call Metro (Animal Control) to collect the animal,” Heald said.

Rabies has become a rare disease, even among animals. It’s most seen now in wild animals, like bats and raccoons. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of annual human deaths from rabies dropped from more than 100 in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to fewer than three in the 1990s. While there is no cure, treatment for the disease “has proven nearly 100% successful,” according to the CDC.

The treatment is an expensive series of five shots, Heald said. In other words: Let’s avoid needing the treatment in the first place.

In a statement, state veterinarian Karl Musgrave urged Wyomingites to vaccinate their animals and to report animal bites to animal control.

“This can keep pets, horses and livestock from getting rabies,” he said, “and help protect pet owners should pets be bitten by a rabid wild animal.”

Heald said she couldn’t remember the last time there was a human case of rabies in Natrona County, but that a woman died of the disease a few years ago in Fremont County. A rabid bat was found in her bedroom.

She added that the spike is a natural cycle and “just something that goes up and down in (some animal) populations.” It’s seen periodically in skunk populations, as well, but it can affect any mammal — like horses and cows.

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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