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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Forty Iowans, including some from the Cedar Rapids area, had to undergo treatment for rabies after they potentially were in contact with a rabid bat at a zoo in Omaha.
More than 180 individuals were advised to receive the rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, which contains the rabies vaccine, after a wild bat was found near a person attending one of the Henry Doorly Zoo’s multiple overnight campouts at the aquarium earlier this month.
A total of 186 overnight campers, including youth and adult groups, were contacted by the Nebraska public health department, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
Among those were dozens of Iowans, mostly adolescents and their parents, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
“Everyone contacted was advised of the situation and public health risk as we understood it from the zoo and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and have either already begun or are on the path to beginning prophylaxis,” IDPH said in a statement to The Gazette.
Linn County Public Health said anyone locally who has been affected has been contacted and the appropriate follow-up has been conducted.
Public health officials in Nebraska recommended all campers who stayed at the zoo overnight June 29, June 30, July 2 and July 3 receive prophylaxis.
The recommendation came after a camper staying in the aquarium the night of July 3 woke up to a wild bat near her head. A team found seven bats in the building, one of which tested positive for rabies, a news release from the zoo stated.
Heather Meador, Linn County Public Health clinical services supervisor, said public health officials typically recommend anyone sleeping in a room with a wild bat that tests positive for rabies receive the vaccine.
Bat bites can be tiny and hard to detect, and there’s no cure once someone does develop rabies themselves. For most, the rabies virus will cause death.
“Some things are a wait-and-see approach, but with this, it’s too late if it does develop,” Meador said.
UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital administered the rabies vaccine to 27 individuals impacted locally, spokeswoman Sarah Corizzo said.
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids also confirmed it was involved with seeing some of these individuals, but did not specify how many. Dr. Tony Myers, Mercy’s chief medical officer, said Linn County Public Health helped coordinate the effort to obtain vaccines.
Local hospitals keep the rabies vaccine on hand, but the need was “significantly larger than our historical use,” Corizzo said.
St. Luke’s worked with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, in addition to local public health, to obtain additional doses.
“Our team drove down to Iowa City to pick up additional doses and started administering the doses immediately in our pediatric unit,” Corizzo said.
There was no need to secure a rabies vaccine supply from other states, but Iowa Department of Public Health did work closely with Nebraska in case that was needed, officials said in an email to The Gazette.
The Henry Doorly Zoo has offed to cover the cost of treatment, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
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