Texas Department of State Health Services Friday afternoon, Oct. 29, 2021, announced the department is investigating a case of rabies in a child who was bitten by a bat. The child is a resident of Medina County and is currently receiving care in a Texas hospital.
Public health personnel have identified all places where someone could have come into contact with the bat or the rabies patient and directly contacted anyone who may have been exposed. Health officials are assessing them to determine their risk and whether they should receive post-exposure vaccination to prevent them from getting sick with rabies. People who need to be assessed have received a phone or written notification from DSHS. Those who were not contacted have no need for concern over this situation.
Rabies is a viral illness that usually spreads through the bite of an infected animal. It may also be possible to transmit the virus if infected saliva enters the eyes, nose or mouth or a break in the skin. Once someone becomes sick with rabies, it is almost always fatal. However, the illness is preventable if rabies vaccine and immune globulin are administered before symptoms start.
There are a number of things people can do to help stop the spread of rabies:
- Never approach wild animals.
- If bitten or scratched by a bat or any other animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water. Then, seek medical attention to be assessed for potential rabies exposure.
- Ensure domestic dogs and cats are up to date on rabies vaccination, as required by state law.
- Consider protecting livestock and domestic ferrets by vaccinating them.
In Texas, skunks and bats account for most animal rabies cases, but any mammal can become infected and potentially spread it to other animals or humans. Last year, nearly 600 animals tested positive for rabies across all regions of the state; about half were bats.
The last human case of rabies in a Texas resident was in 2009. DSHS will not release any additional information about the current rabies patient to protect the patient’s identity. Additional information on rabies in Texas is available at dshs.texas.gov/idcu/disease/rabies.aspx.