Rabies investigation reaches popular Austin restaurant

Rabies conference (Natalie Hee/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Health officials fear more people may have been exposed to rabies. Friday they announced they are monitoring six people and eight dogs who came in contact with a border collie mix earlier this month.

Katie Mae Hebert and her sister own a pet care business and bring more than a dozen of their clients’ dogs to Zilker Park five days a week. Since word spread of a rabid dog at the park earlier this month, their clients are worried.

“We see the same people everyday and we’ve talked in a big circle about it, I mean, it’s definitely a concern,” said Hebert.

Right now, only the original border collie mix is confirmed with rabies and was put down after contracting the virus from a skunk in Floresville, Texas. The dog was not vaccinated against rabies, according to animal control officials.

The health department is taking the rabies alert serious and is hoping to reach anyone who may have come in contact with that dog. The scope of the investigation has now reached a popular Austin restaurant.

Officials said the same day the infected dog was at Zilker Park, the owner took the pet to eat on the patio of El Arroyo on 5th Street. Health officials said the restaurant is completely safe, but are monitoring three employees after potentially contacting the dog.

Hebert said she wasn’t at the park that day but does what she can to keep an eye on the dogs’ behavior.

“It’s hard to know how to be aware unless you go up and ask each person. You know ‘have you taken your dog in? Can I see their tags?’ You know, we’re not going to do that,” said Hebert.

The six people confirmed at risk are beginning treatment for rabies exposure. If you or your pet may have been exposed to the rabid dog, officials ask that you call 3-1-1 and see a doctor right away. The border collie was at Zilker Park and El Arroyo Restaurant on Sunday, Feb. 8.

There are some important facts to keep in mind about this virus. It is only transmitted through oral fluids of an infectious animal. So in order to spread, it has to be introduced through a bite wound, open cuts in the skin or your mouth, nose or eyes. A person who has been exposed to rabies is typically urged to take four doses of a rabies vaccine over a 14-day period. The shots can cost anywhere from $2,000-$7,000 per person.

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