For Release: October 6, 2017 – Jamie Dukes, Office of Communications (405) 271-5601
Editors Note: This press release provides an update to previous information released October 5th.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is expanding its search for anyone who had direct contact with a rabid wild bat found at the Oklahoma City Zoo after receiving information from the public.
Public health officials are now advising any zoo visitors who may have touched or been bitten by a bat, which was having difficulty flying or acting unusually, between the dates of Friday, Sept. 29 to Sunday, Oct. 1 to contact the OSDH epidemiologist-on-call at (405) 271-4060 or (800) 234-5963.
The bat was not part of the zoo’s animal collection and was seen on the ground near the Great EscApe habitat and the Big Rivers Café, and also near the zebra and giraffe habitats. Testing done at the OSDH Public Health Laboratory confirmed the bat was rabid.
Health officials believe that few zoo visitors encountered the rabid bat, but in the event that someone made physical contact by touching or handling the animal, it is essential that a rabies exposure assessment be done and recommendations for immunizations be provided as indicated. There is no risk of rabies exposure to a person who was in the general vicinity of the zoo grounds where the bat was found.
Rabies is a viral disease which affects the central nervous system and is almost always fatal once symptoms of the disease begin. The virus is found in the brain, spinal cord, and saliva of infected animals and is mainly transmitted through a bite from a rabid animal.
Wildlife known to spread rabies in Oklahoma are skunks and bats. There have been 40 cases of animal rabies, including three bats, statewide since the beginning of the year. This bat is the third rabid animal identified in Oklahoma County during 2017. There were seven rabid animals, including one bat, identified in Oklahoma County during 2016.