Nearly 200 people possibly exposed to rabid bat at Nebraska zoo

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Nearly 200 people possibly exposed to rabid bat at Nebraska zoo

This slumber party bites.

Nearly 200 people who paid to take part in a sleepover event at a zoo in Nebraska are being urged to get rabies shots — because they may have been exposed to a rabid bat, according to officials.

A camper awoke at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha on July 4 and spotted one of the disease-carrying mammals flying near her head, the zoo said Friday.

The woman wasn’t scratched or bitten, but the zoo later found seven wild bats  — including one that tested positive for rabies — inside the venue and said up to 186 people may have been exposed.

“The bats we identified were little brown bats, a common bat species in Nebraska that anyone could find in their backyard or attic,” said Doorly Zoo Animal Health Director Dr. Sarah Woodhouse. “It is not unusual for a wild bat to be infected with rabies, which is why you should never directly touch a wild bat.”

The zoo gave campers who slept over between June 30 and July 4 refunds and is paying for their shots.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the bats got into the venue, but staffers didn’t find any signs of long-term bat roosting, officials said. The zoo has since moved overnight camping events elsewhere.

Inside the Bat Cave, part of the Kingdoms of the Night exhibit.
The zoo later found seven wild bats  — including one that tested positive for rabies — inside the venue and said up to 186 people may have been exposed.
Omaha Zoo Handout

Animal lovers who visited the aquarium during the day need not fear infection because bats come out only at night, Woodhouse said.

In recent months, the zoo has offered shark-centric overnight “Sleeping Bag Safaris.” It ranks among the world’s top five aquariums, according to its Web site.

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