State Health Department officials have now expanded the time period people may have been exposed to a rabid bat at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
The bat was a wild bat and not part of the zoo’s collection. Officials with the health department say they know a limited number of people did come into contact with the bat. And the zoo confirms an employee was bitten.
The bat was an Eastern Red Bat, originally discovered on the ground near the Great EscApe habitat and the Big Rivers Cafe.
“It was acting weird, it was acting off,” said Barry Downer, Deputy Director of the OKC Zoo. “Staff was alerted and our vets asked for it to be brought to the vet hospital. Unfortunately in the process of containing that animal somebody was bitten.”
Health officials originally thought the risk of public exposure was for about five hours on Sunday, but late Friday sent out an alert asking for any zoo visitors who may have touched or been bitten by a bat from Friday, September 29th to Sunday, October 1st to contact them. They also expanded the area where the bat may have been to the area near the zebra and giraffe habitats.
“From the public announcement we received additional information that led to identifying that it had been there for multiple days,” explained Laurend Burnsed and epidemiologist with the Oklahoma State Health Department.
Burnsed says rabies is deadly if not treated but is spread through saliva so they believe very few individuals were at risk.
“A person would have to actually handle the animal and be bitten by the animal to be exposed. The people who were just in the general vicinity of where the bat may have been at the zoo would not be at risk of exposure.”
As far as zoo animals go Downer says they are all vaccinated and are not at risk.
If you think you have been exposed contact the OSDH epidemiologist-on-call at (405) 271-4060 or (800) 234-5963.