A Survey of Bite Protocols and Rabies Prevalence in Captive Mammals Among Zoos Nationwide
A national survey questionnaire was conducted in 32 zoos throughout 17 states between February and May 2008. This survey questionnaire consisted of six questions that evaluated the details surrounding captive mammalian bites amongst zoo visitors and personnel. The survey was completed by zoo veterinarians after reviewing the most recent bite incident reports. The information collected documented mammalian bites occur commonly. An average of 9.1 bite incidents per zoo involving zoo visitors were reported in the last 5 yr compared to an average of 7.5 bite incidents per zoo involving personnel within the last 5 yr. Zoo personnel had bites documented with a larger variety of mammals and of greater severity (average rating 3.83/5; scale defined at numeric intervals with 0 meaning bite did not break skin and 5 indicating life-threatening injuries). While victim profile and severity of attack differed between visitor and personnel bites, the majority were not reported to the local health department. This lack of reporting is speculated to be due to low rabies risk, fear of media involvement, and an unknown conclusion for the offending animal. Of the animals involved in the listed attacks, average quarantine was 47.5 days when dealing with a zoo visitor bite versus an average quarantine of 18 days when involving a personnel bite incident. These results demonstrate the need for a standardized protocol following a bite incident and cooperation with the local health department as necessary.