Zoo anteater uncovered individuals to rabies in first-of-its-kind case

An anteater contaminated with rabies at a Tennessee zoo probably uncovered greater than a dozen individuals to the lethal virus, in accordance with a brand new report.

The weird case marks the primary time that rabies has been reported on this species, a kind of anteater from South America often called the southern tamandua or lesser anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla), in accordance with the report, revealed Thursday (April 14) in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a journal from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC).

What’s extra, the anteater in query had just lately been transferred from a zoo in Virginia and was contaminated with a variant of rabies not usually seen in Tennessee, which means the animal possible caught the virus earlier than its switch, the report stated. This case highlights the potential for “rabies translocation” from one geographic space to a different by the motion of captive animals, the authors stated.

The case started in early Could 2021, when the anteater was transferred from the Virginia zoo to a zoo in Washington County, Tennessee, the place it was housed with one different anteater. In late June 2021, the transferred anteater began exhibiting indicators of sickness, together with lethargy, lack of urge for food and diarrhea, the report stated. At first, veterinarians presumed the anteater had a bacterial an infection and prescribed antibiotics. 

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When the animal’s signs continued to worsen, veterinarians at a close-by school examined the animal. However at first, employees on the school didn’t take into account rabies as a doable prognosis as a result of the animal wasn’t identified to have any bites (which might unfold rabies) and rabies had by no means been reported in the sort of anteater (tamanduas) earlier than. 

Curiously, tamanduas have a really low physique temperature of 91 levels Fahrenheit (33 levels Celsius) — one of many lowest physique temperatures of any lively land mammal, in accordance with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance — and such a low physique temperature was thought to cut back the danger of an infection with rabies, the authors stated.

Finally, the anteater acquired so sick that it was euthanized on July 6, 2021, the report stated. Veterinarians carried out a necropsy to attempt to perceive why the animal died, and samples of the anteater’s brain tissue examined preliminary constructive for rabies on Aug. 16, 2021. Extra testing was carried out by the CDC, and the company confirmed the prognosis of rabies on Aug. 21, 2021.

As a result of anteaters haven’t got tooth, there was no threat of the animal biting individuals and giving them rabies. However some individuals could have been uncovered to the animal’s saliva or mind tissue (in the course of the necropsy), which might have unfold the virus, the report stated. After an evaluation of people that got here into contact with the anteater, officers advisable that 13 of those individuals obtain rabies postexposure prophylaxis, which consists of a number of photographs of the rabies vaccine. All 13 individuals agreed to obtain the remedy.

As of April 1, 2022, no extra instances of rabies associated to this case — in both people or animals — have been recognized in Tennessee or Virginia , the report stated.


Additional evaluation revealed that the anteater was contaminated with a variant of the rabies virus seen in raccoons within the japanese United States, together with these in Virginia, however not beforehand seen in Tennessee. This implies that the anteater acquired its an infection on the Virginia zoo, the researchers stated. The Virginia zoo was notified about considerations of rabid raccoons on their property, and the zoo confirmed that native wildlife (together with raccoons) had been seen contained in the zoo’s fencing perimeter, the report stated. 

“Captive mammals maintained in reveals or zoological parks usually are usually not utterly excluded from rabies host species and might develop into contaminated,” the authors wrote. They famous that “all workers who work with animals in areas the place rabies is endemic ought to obtain preexposure rabies vaccination.” 

Within the present case, three of the 13 individuals who have been uncovered to the anteater hadn’t acquired rabies vaccination earlier than, and so they wanted a dose of rabies antibodies as a part of their remedy along with the rabies vaccine photographs.

“This case additionally highlights the significance of continued public well being efforts to develop consciousness and schooling about rabies prevention and management,” the authors stated.

Initially revealed on Reside Science. 


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