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A wild bat that sneaked into Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo may have exposed guests to rabies

Daytime visitors are not in danger
Posted at 5:56 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 20:29:03-04

According to a release from Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, a wild bat that later tested positive for rabies was discovered inside the Scott Aquarium. The zoo hosted a series of overnight campouts and one guest noticed the bat near her head.

Bats are nocturnal and are not active during the day, therefore daytime guests should not be at risk. The zoo said that of the seven wild bats discovered inside the aquarium, one tested positive for rabies and others tested negative.

In a press release, the zoo said that she was examined by one of the zoo’s EMTs and they were unable to identify any scratches or bite marks. The zoo’s on-call vet was also consulted and advised that the guest contact her primary care physician to discuss the risk of possible rabies exposure since the bat flew away and could not be identified for testing.

Representatives for the zoo want to be clear that this was a wild bat that made its way into the aquarium and not a bat from the zoo’s collection.

In its press release the zoo said, "In consultation with the Douglas County Health Department, Nebraska State Veterinarian, and other officials from the Nebraska Department of Health, it was recommended that all guests staying in the Aquarium over the nights of July 2 and 3, and June 29 and 30, receive the rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).

This recommendation is based on the CDC’s guidelines that any person who is not fully conscious (including sleep) in the presence of a wild bat should receive rabies PEP due to the potential for contact.

Communication with these guests was coordinated with the Douglas County Health Department and sent by letter to each attendee. The group includes 186 overnight camping individuals from youth and adult groups, along with a few Zoo employees. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is offering these guests refunds for their event and providing information on how to receive the postexposure prophylaxis at the Zoo’s expense."

"We want to assure our guests who have visited the Aquarium during the day that there is no need to be concerned about the rabid bat. Bats are nocturnal and therefore not active - or awake - during the Zoo’s normal operating hours,” said Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, Director of Animal Health for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. “The bats we identified were Little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), a common bat species in Nebraska that anyone could find in their backyard or attic. 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 recommends contacting the Nebraska Humane Societyif you do come into contact with a bat.

Nebraska Wildlife Rehab and Bat Conservation International are also resources if you discover a bat in your living quarters.

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