Boy played fetch with rabid dog; state needs help finding him

Zilker Park (KXAN)
Zilker Park (KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — State health officials are now asking for help finding a young boy who came into contact with a rabid dog. The border collie mix started showing symptoms Feb. 12, and animal control officials said the dog was infectious when it visited Zilker Park just a few days earlier.

Six people and eight pets are currently being monitored after coming into contact with the dog, but the Texas Department of State Health Services is still trying to track down the boy seen playing fetch with the animal.

“At first, you think: ‘If everybody’s vaccinated, why do I need to get my dog vaccinated?'” said John Brown, who was at Zilker on Tuesday with his dog, Rue. “But it’s so important because all it takes is that one dog.”

County health officials were already worried about the boy, but now state health officials are stepping in.

“What was identified was a young boy, school-aged boy, with pale skin that may have been exposed to rabies as well,” said Christine Mann with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The dog’s saliva could have infected him. State health officials say it is important to find the boy so he can see a doctor and get treated before showing any possible symptoms.

“We take rabies seriously because if you are exposed and develop symptoms, it’s almost always fatal,” said Mann.

Mann says the child was with two women and appeared to be speaking a language other than Spanish or English, and it is unclear if they live in Austin. The original dog, who had to be put down, is currently the only confirmed rabies case.

That dog contracted the virus after being bitten by a skunk outside of San Antonio. The dog was not vaccinated against rabies, according to animal control officials. The owners did not notice the bite and took the dog to Zilker Park — where it played with other dogs, as well as the boy. Health officials also say the dog went to the El Arroyo Mexican restaurant but said the restaurant is completely safe. Three employees who may have contacted the dog are being monitored as a precaution.

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