Houston Health Department

Rabies Laboratory Services


The Houston Health Department laboratory is the primary rabies testing facility for Houston and several of its surrounding counties.


Forms


Acceptance criteria

Rabies specimens are accepted at the Houston Health Department main laboratory between the hours of 8 a..m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at 2250 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, Texas 77030

General questions regarding specimens, test/result status, or submission requirements can be directed to the rabies laboratory at 832-393-3917.

  • The laboratory only accepts animal heads for testing, except for bats or small rodents. We request that bats and small rodents be submitted intact.
  • Specimens should be kept cold with cold packs and packaged with absorbent material. If ice must be used, please double bag it in sturdy plastic bags. Also keep current weather conditions in mind when packing the specimen and provide enough cold packs to keep the specimens cold for at least 48 hours. The specimens should not be frozen.
  • Submission request slips should be packaged in a waterproof bag.
  • The laboratory must examine a complete cross section of the brain stem and either the cerebellum or hippocampus to be confident that adequate samples have been tested. If the animal head has been compromised due to trauma or decomposition, the laboratory may not be able to generate a valid result.
  • Specimens shipped by bus are picked up Monday through Friday. Please notify the lab at 832-393-3917 of all bus shipments.
  • Specimens shipped by the various overnight services (Federal Express, UPS, etc.) are accepted by the laboratory in the same manner as specimens delivered by individuals. Please note that these delivery services will not deliver the packages to the City of Houston Laboratory on weekends and holidays.

Fee for rabies testing is as follows:

Submitter Fee for Rabies Testing

Identified public animal control agencies (e.g. BARC, HCVPH) and surveillance.

No charge

All priority 1* and  priority 2** cases as identified by Houston Health Department or other health department epidemiologist or medical doctor (MD). Note: A health department assigned case or bite number must be submitted with the sample submission form.

No charge

All privately owned veterinary clinics that are not identified by Houston Health Department or other health department as priority 1*, or 2** cases.

$40
Private citizens that are not identified by Houston Health Department as priority 1*, or 2** cases. $40

Prioritization of specimens

  • The Rabies Section of the Houston Health Department laboratory will assess the urgency of test requests via the laboratory's established case priority and/or approval by the Houston Health Department or other health department epidemiology unit.
  • Priority 1* – Known Human Bite. Note: applies to animals considered high risk for rabies infection (e.g., bat, skunk).
  • Priority 2** – Known Human Exposure or Bat found inside residence.
  • Priority 3 – Pet Exposure.
  • Priority 4 – Other.

Decomposed and destroyed specimens are not tested and are reported as decomposed or destroyed.

Each specimen should be accompanied by a Houston Health Department request for Rabies Testing form.

The Houston Health Department rabies laboratory recognizes all City of Houston approved holidays and does not routinely operate on said holidays.

Please note: Approximately two percent of specimens appear suspicious on primary testing and can not be conclusively reported positive or negative. These specimens must be repeated. This will delay reports on these specimens until 5:00 p.m. on specimens normally reported by noon or until the next morning on specimens normally reported by 5:00 p.m.

Emergency testing of rabies specimens

The Houston Health Department rabies laboratory has limited provisions in place to accommodate requests for emergency testing.

Emergency testing on known human bite cases from an animal with a high prevalence of rabies in our testing region (i.e. bat, skunk) will be performed at the request of medical professionals, and epidemiologists upon approval by the laboratory director and/or Virology supervisor

The requesting agency should contact the Laboratory Director or the Virology Supervisor

Emergency tests will be performed within 24 hours of arrival when advised by a medical professional or epidemiologist

Due to the limited provisions of the Houston Health Department to provide emergency testing, some requests for emergency testing may be immediately deferred to the Department of State Health Services laboratory (DSHS) to ensure prompt attention


Please note: In the event that specimens are sent to the Department of State Health Services laboratory, please see contact information below.

Texas Department of State Health Services Rabies Identification Team
Attn: Nachea Qualls
1100 W 49th Street,
Austin, TX 78756.
Tel: 512-458-7595
Biological Substances, Category B
https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/lab/rab_testing.shtm

DSHS laboratory MUST be notified in advance of shipment using the Rabies Hotline: 800-252-8163. DSHS accepts rabies specimens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.