The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) is asking for the public’s assistance in finding an individual who was unknowingly exposed to rabies. The individual needs to contact Metro Health at 210-207-2095 to start rabies prophylaxis immediately.

Brown Bat
Myotis lucifugus, or Little Brown Bat/CDC

On March 28, a man walked into the CVS Pharmacy at 4730 Fredericksburg Road around 9:20 p.m. with a bleeding bat inside a paper bag. Another male customer grabbed the bleeding bat with his bare hands and placed the animal in a cardboard box. The bat later tested positive for rabies. The man who grabbed the bat was potentially exposed to rabies, but unknowingly left the pharmacy without a trace.

Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. It is also rarely contracted through breaks in the skin or contact with mucous membranes. It has been suggested that airborne transmission is possible in caves where there are heavy concentrations of bats.

According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.

Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.

Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptomsthen progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.

Although worldwide it is estimated that there are more than 60,000 deaths due to rabies annually,human rabies cases are extremely rare in the United States, which averages  less than five human rabies cases annually.

Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.

In light of this incident, Metro Health reminds the community to follow this guidance:

  • Teach children that they should never touch wildlife or any roaming animal, regardless of whether it is living or dead. Children should be taught to tell an adult immediately if they see or touch an unknown animal in close proximity to people or pets.
  • Adults should also refrain from feeding, touching, or handling any wildlife or unknown animals.
  • If you or your pet makes contact with a bat, skunk, raccoon, coyote, or other wildlife, San Antonio residents are urged to call Animal Care Services at 311. County residents can contact Bexar County Animal Control at 335-9000.
  • Pets that come into contact with wildlife should be confined to prevent further exposure to people or animals. State law dictates that anyactual or potential rabies exposure must be reported to the local rabies authority for investigation and potential testing.
  • Vaccinate your pet against rabies.
  • If the unknown animal is within a home or building, keep the animal confined, but only if it can be done safely and without direct contact.
  • If at all possible, wait for Animal Control to respond and avoid striking the animal. Physical trauma can damage the brain and make it impossible to conduct rabies laboratory tests.