News Release

January 7, 2003


Local health officials seek zoo visitors with possible rabies exposure

The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) is seeking to identify several adults and possibly three children who may have had exposure to a rabid bat on the grounds of the Houston Zoo Wednesday, January 1.

The incident occurred New Year's Day at around noon near the primate area. The wild bat was found on the ground surrounded by five or six adults and three children. Another white adult male approximately 45 years of age summoned a groundskeeper to the scene. The groundskeeper removed the bat which was subsequently submitted to HDHHS for rabies testing. The spectators and the man who reported the bat departed before contact information could be obtained.

HDHHS health officials need to interview the spectators to determine if they touched the bat and are at risk of exposure or witnessed any one else touching or being touched by the bat. If exposure is confirmed, the individuals will be encouraged to receive post exposure treatment to prevent the onset of rabies.

A bite from an infected bat is not necessary for the transmission of rabies. Rabid bat saliva on broken skin has been linked to disease. Bat bites are often unapparent due to the small size of bat teeth and the potential excitement of the situation. Bats are the most common source of human rabies exposure in the United States.

Rabies is an invariably fatal disease transmitted by the bite or saliva of an infected animal. Symptoms begin 30 to 60 days after exposure. Treatment must be initiated before the onset of symptoms.

The positive bat was a Southern Yellow bat which habitats in trees. Houston is a hospitable environment for resident and migratory bats due to the mild climate and year- round leaf bearing trees.

Anyone who witnessed or may have touched the downed bat is asked to call the HDHHS Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care at 713-238-2170.

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