Nebraska zoo urges nearly 200 guests to get rabies shot after campers were exposed to a wild bat


Nebraska zoo urges nearly 200 guests to get rabies shot after overnight campers were exposed to wild, infected bat

  • Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is offering to pay for the shots after 186 people who had camped there overnight may have been exposed
  • The scare began on July 4, when a camper awoke to find a wild bat near her head where she slept in the zoo facilities
  •  The zoo found that seven wild bats had made their home in its facilities, captured them and euthanized them
  • One of the bats tested positive for rabies
  • Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, animal health director at the zoo and aquarium said the bats were little brown bats, a common species in the area
  • The bats were not part of the zoo’s collection, she said
  • She said daytime visitors need not worry since bats are nocturnal  

Nearly 200 people were possibly exposed to a rabid bat while staying overnight at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

Zoo and Nebraska health officials recommended that 186 campers who stayed overnight at the zoo’s aquarium on the weekends of June 26-27 and July 3-4 as well as some staffers, get rabies shots, after seven wild bats were found, including one that had been infected with rabies, living in one its facilities.

The scare began on July 4, when a camper awoke to a wild bat flying around her head, and reported it to the zoo. 

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium says 186 visitors who camped overnight at one of its facility’s may have been exposed to a rabid bat 

Officials at the zoo discovered that seven wild little brown bats (pictured), which are common to the area,  had moved into one of its facilities and that one had tested positive for the rabies virus

Officials at the zoo discovered that seven wild little brown bats (pictured), which are common to the area,  had moved into one of its facilities and that one had tested positive for the rabies virus  

Dr. Sarah Woodhouse animal health director for the zoo said daytime visitors to the zoo need not worry about exposure since bats are nocturnal

Dr. Sarah Woodhouse animal health director for the zoo said daytime visitors to the zoo need not worry about exposure since bats are nocturnal 

After, the zoo found seven wild bats living in its aquarium facility and euthanized them. One tested positive for the rabies virus. 

A zoo emergency medical technician did not find any bites or scratches on the camper, but the zoo is recommending she and any others who were staying overnight get a rabies vaccine.

‘The bats we identified were Little brown bats, a common bat species in Nebraska that anyone could find in their backyard or attic,’ Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, animal health director for the zoo said in a statement. ‘It is not unusual for a wild bat to be infected with rabies, which is why you should never directly touch a wild bat.’

The zoo gave refunds for the campers, and offering to pay for their shots.

The zoo is home to nine species of the nocturnal mammals, but these particular bats were not part of the zoo’s collection, Woodhouse said, adding that daytime guests need not worry about exposure, since bats are nocturnal.    

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a postexposure prophylaxis, or PEP vaccine shot, be administered shortly after exposure to rabies, for both bites and through other exposure means such a scratches or saliva, with further doses of the vaccine given again on days 3, 7 and 14 after exposure.   

Zoo staff didn’t find any signs of long-term bat roosting at the aquarium. The zoo said it has moved all overnight camping events elsewhere as workers try to pinpoint how the bats got into the building.

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