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    Contact Us

    Laboratory Services Section
    MC 1947
    PO Box 149347 Austin, TX 78714-9347
    1100 W. 49th Street
    Austin, TX 78756-3199

    Phone: (512) 776-7318
    Fax: (512) 776-7294

    Phone Us Toll Free at:
    (888) 963-7111, ext. 7318

    Mailing/Shipping Info

    Email the Laboratory

Rabies Testing

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After hours receipt of samples is temporarily unavailable. All packages transported through a courier (FedEx, UPS, LoneStar Overnight) will be accepted during regular business hours. Specimens submitted to Greyhound Bus Station-Austin will be picked up by laboratory staff as usual. Hand-delivered samples will be accepted only during regular business hours Monday - Friday (7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) until further notice. If you have questions concerning this issue, please call (512) 776-7598.

Submitters are required to notify the laboratory of the shipment of rabies specimens. The toll-free number for notification is (800) 252-8163. This number is available 24 hours a day and allows submitters to leave the shipping information in a message. You can also notify the Laboratory of your specimen shipment via email: Click here to complete a brief Rabies Specimen Notification Form (PDF 253kb). Notification is critical for the laboratory to monitor the arrival of specimens and to be able to notify the submitter if a specimen does not arrive as expected. The number also includes instructions on shipping a specimen and how to reach someone after hours in the event of an emergency. 

An interactive tutorial on submitting rabies specimens is available. Click here to go to the LabGuides: Submitting Rabies Specimens to the Laboratory (383k).  


Specimen Delivery to the Laboratory

The processing of rabies specimens is handled on a top priority basis. The laboratory tests 8,000 to 10,000 animal specimens per year for rabies; procedures are designed to facilitate reporting that is as rapid as reasonably possible for these specimens.

Specimens transported by individuals and delivered directly to the laboratory (see Directions to Lab and Lab receiving on the DSHS Complex map) may be delivered to Specimen Acquisition (Room L-104 of the Laboratory) during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). Thirty-minute parking is available adjacent to this location.

Specimens shipped by bus are picked up from the bus station by DSHS personnel. Specimens are routinely picked up three times a day on Monday through Friday and once a day on weekends and holidays (approximately 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays, 1:00 p.m. on Sundays, and 7:00 a.m. on holidays).

Specimens shipped by the various overnight services (Federal Express, UPS, etc.) are accepted by the laboratory in the same manner as specimens delivered by individuals. Please note, however, that these delivery services frequently will not deliver the packages to the DSHS Laboratory on weekends and holidays; they will often hold the package for delivery on Monday, or the next regular workday. This also includes delivery services that say they will deliver on weekends. If a submitter needs to get a specimen to the laboratory over the weekend, the laboratory strongly encourages shipment of the specimen by bus rather than an overnight service.


Specimen Submission Guidelines

Rabies Submission Form G-9 (PDF 63kb)

The laboratory accepts only animal heads for testing, except for bats or small rodents. We request that bats be submitted intact to allow us to speciate the bats. Intact animals decompose more rapidly than just the animal heads, decreasing our ability to provide accurate results.

When the laboratory tests an animal for rabies, technologists examine three areas of the brain: stem, cerebellum, and hippocampus. The laboratory must examine a complete cross section of the brain stem and either the cerebellum or hippocampus to be confident that adequate samples have been tested. If the animal head has been compromised due to trauma or decomposition, the laboratory may not be able to generate a valid result.

Specimens should be kept cold with cold packs. If ice must be used, please double bag it in sturdy plastic bags. Also keep current weather conditions in mind when packing the specimen and provide enough cold packs to keep the specimens cold for at least 48 hours. The specimens should not be frozen.


Shipping and Handling Specimens

Directions for preparing and shipping specimens

Specimens may be delivered directly to the Laboratory Services Section in Austin, or they may be shipped via bus, overnight carrier, or other means. The Laboratory strongly recommends shipping specimens by bus whenever possible. If you are going to ship a specimen, you must notify the Laboratory using the Rabies Hotline: (800) 252-8163


Turnaround Time and Reporting of Rabies Results

Routine Testing and Result Reporting of Rabies Specimens (Monday through Friday)

  • Specimens received prior to 8:00 a.m. are tested and reported by 5:00 p.m. the same afternoon.
  • Specimens received after 8:00 a.m. and prior to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday are tested the following morning and reported prior to noon on that day.

Weekend and Holiday Testing and Result Reporting of Rabies Specimens

  • Specimens received after 8:00 a.m. and prior to 3:00 p.m. on Friday are initially tested on Saturday morning and positive results are reported by noon. Specimen testing is completed on Monday morning and final reports are called by noon on Monday. Submitters may request a preliminary negative report on Saturday by contacting the rabies laboratory on Friday at (512) 776-7595.
  • Routine specimens received in the laboratory after 3:00 p.m. on Friday, or received on Saturday or Sunday, are not tested on the weekend but do receive priority on Monday and are reported by 5:00 p.m. that afternoon.
  • Specimens received prior to 8:00 a.m. on skeleton crew days are reported by 5:00 p.m. that afternoon. Negative specimens are reported the next regular work day. Again, submitters may request a negative report on the holiday by contacting the rabies laboratory at (512) 776-7595. Specimens received later in the day on a skeleton crew holiday receive first priority the next regular work day and are tested and reported by 5:00 p.m. that afternoon.
  • Emergency testing only on major/federal holidays. You must contact the rabies laboratory at (512) 776-7595 prior to the holiday to obtain approval and make arrangements for testing.

Emergency Testing of Rabies Specimens

  • To arrange for emergency processing of a specimen expected to arrive over the weekend, the submitter must obtain prior approval from the DSHS. Contact Rabies Identification Team personnel at (512) 776-7595 before 4 p.m. on Friday to request emergency testing over the weekend. The laboratory and Zoonosis Control personnel will evaluate the situation and determine if emergency processing is necessary. After 4 p.m. on Friday, contact the Physician-on-call at (512) 776-7111 for a determination of whether emergency processing is necessary. If so determined, the Physician-on-call will contact the lab to make arrangements for testing. The submitter must provide an after-hours contact telephone number to receive a report after regular working hours. A voice mail system is available to handle concerns after hours by calling (512) 776-7595 and will be checked perioridally throughout the weekend. If the matter is urgent, it is possible to page the laboratorian-on-call by vollowing the voice mail system instructions.
  • A submitter cannot request after hours processing of a specimen by simply indicating the need on the submission form, because Laboratory personnel will not see the form until they process the specimen. The submitter must request emergency testing by phone.

Please Note:  Approximately two percent of specimens appear suspicious on primary testing and can not be conclusively reported positive or negative. These specimens must be repeated. This will delay reports on these specimens until 5:00 p.m. on specimens normally reported by noon or until the next morning on specimens normally reported by 5:00 p.m.


Inquiries

When calling to check on results or specimen status, or to arrange special handling, please have as much of the following information available as possible:

  • Agency that submitted the animal to the laboratory. (This may be a veterinarian, a veterinary clinic, humane society, or other agency or individual.)
  • City and/or county from which the animal was shipped.
  • Type of animal.
  • Any identifying number or description that may have been included with the animal.
  • Owner and/or victim's name.
  • The approximate date the specimen was shipped

This information will help us identify the animal and respond to questions more quickly.


Result Interpretation

Positive

Test results indicate that the specimen was positive for rabies virus. Additional information concerning the decision on whether or not rabies prophylaxis is needed is available in Rabies Prevention in Texas. Further information is available on the CDC web site.

Picture of positive rabies specimen

 

Negative

Test results indicate that the specimen was negative for rabies virus. Post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies is not necessary following exposure to an animal that tested negative for the rabies virus. Further information is available on the CDC web site.

Picture of negative rabies specimen

 

Unsatisfactory

When the laboratory tests an animal for rabies, the technologists examine three areas of the brain: stem, cerebellum, and hippocampus. To be confident that they have an adequate sample for testing, the laboratory must receive a complete cross section of the brain stem and either the cerebellum or hippocampus. If the required brain parts are not received, they test what was received. If that part is positive, the specimen is reported as positive. However, if the part received is not positive, the specimen is reported as unsatisfactory. This is necessary because testing fewer areas of the brain may not lead to detection of a weak positive animal. If you receive an unsatisfactory report, decisions about whether or not rabies prophylaxis is needed should be based on the exposure history following the guidelines in Rabies Prevention in Texas.

Inconclusive

An inconclusive report indicates that when we tested the animal for rabies, we saw some material in the brain of the animal that looked suspicious, but could not be definitively identified as rabies virus. Prior to issuing an inconclusive report, the specimen is retested multiple times. If you receive an inconclusive report for rabies, decisions about whether or not rabies prophylaxis is needed should be based on the exposure history following the guidelines in Rabies Prevention in Texas.


Testing of Human Specimens

For Serelogic testing of antibody status (both human and animal samples):

To handle clinical material from patients who are ill and for which rabies is suspect:

Note: External links to other sites are intended to be informational and do not have the endorsement of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). These sites may also not be accessible to people with disabilities.   

Last updated March 20, 2013