Rabies Testing

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Important Notice

Greyhound Bus Terminal Closure in Austin 


The Greyhound Bus terminal at 916 E Koenig Ln. Austin, TX 78751 will permanently close on May 30, 2022, but ceased freight transport on May 15, 2022. The Austin terminal closure affects the ground transportation options available for shipping rabies specimens to the Laboratory. Therefore, from May 15 onward rabies specimens will need to be delivered directly to the Austin Laboratory or transported by an alternative courier service of your choice. DSHS is currently investigating alternative shipping arrangements and will notify submitters of new options, if available. 

All packages transported via courier (DHL, FedEx, LoneStar Overnight, or UPS, for example) will be accepted during regular business hours Monday–Friday, 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Specimens may also be hand-delivered to Specimen Acquisition (at the Laboratory Specimen Receiving Dock) during regular business hours. The Specimen Receiving Dock is on the north side of the Laboratory building and is accessible from Grover Street, as shown in the DSHS Central Complex campus map.
If you have questions about transporting specimens to the Laboratory, please call
(512) 776-7598. Due to biohazard safety guidelines, the Laboratory is unable to return carcasses submitted for rabies testing to owners or submitters.

Submitters are required to notify the Laboratory of the shipment of rabies specimens. The toll-free number for notification is 

1-800-252-8163. This number is available 24-hours a day. Submitters may call at any time to leave their shipping information in a message. Please note that a completed G-9 Rabies Submission Form is still required to accompany each specimen. Advance 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 toll-free number also has instructions on shipping a specimen and how to reach someone after hours in the event of an emergency. 
A tutorial on submitting rabies specimens is available. Click here to go to the specimen submission tutorial: Submitting Rabies Specimens to the DSHS Laboratory (383k).


Specimen Delivery to the Laboratory

Rabies specimen processing is a top priority. The laboratory tests 8,000 to 10,000 animal specimens per year for rabies; our procedures are designed to facilitate as rapid a reporting of results as is reasonably possible given the volume of specimens being tested daily.

Specimens transported by individuals and delivered directly to the laboratory may be delivered to Specimen Acquisition at the Laboratory Specimen Receiving Dock during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). Thirty-minute parking is available adjacent to this location. 

Please refer to the DSHS campus map for on-site directions. Directions to the Laboratory’s physical address can be found here.

Specimens shipped by the various overnight services (DHL, FedEx, LoneStar Overnight, UPS, etc.) are accepted by the Laboratory in the same manner as specimens delivered by individuals. Please note however that such courier services will frequently not deliver packages to the Laboratory on weekends and holidays, even if they offer weekend delivery options; instead, they will hold packages for delivery the next business day. 

The Laboratory does not routinely receive deliveries outside of business hours (Monday–Friday, 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.), so it is recommended that specimens be chilled at 32°F to 45°F (0°C to 7°C) over the weekend or holiday and shipped on the next regular workday with the exception of Fridays, which would result in a Saturday delivery.

If a submitter needs to get a specimen to the Laboratory for emergency testing on a Saturday, the submitter must first receive prior approval from the Laboratory
To do so, call the DSHS Rabies Laboratory before 4:00 p.m. on Friday at (512) 776-7595. After 4:00 p.m. call (512) 776-7111 and request to speak with a regional Zoonosis Control (ZC) staff member. The ZC staff member will help determine the necessity of testing immediately. Specimens for emergency Saturday testing must arrive at the Laboratory by 8:00 a.m. Saturday. 

Note: Certain couriers offer an option for submitters to pay an additional charge for an early morning specimen delivery that meets the laboratory’s 8:00 a.m. deadline. If the courier misses this deadline, submitters are encouraged to contact the courier to report the failure to deliver and dispute the delivery charges. Should the specimen and testing be of particular concern, the only reliable way to get a Saturday submission to the Rabies Laboratory by 8:00 a.m. is to hand deliver it.   


Specimen Submission Guidelines

  • A completed G-9 Rabies Submission Form is required with each submission. 
  • Live animals will not be accepted.  
  • Ship only the animal head, unless you are submitting a bat or a very small rodent. We request that bats be submitted intact to allow us to speciate the bats. Have a qualified person separate the animal head from the body as soon as possible after death. 
  • Avoid damage to the brain, including the brainstem. If the animal head has been compromised due to trauma or decomposition, the laboratory may not be able to generate a valid result. However, the state of decomposition of the head and/or body may not represent the state of decomposition of the brain, so do not hesitate to submit. 
  • Fresh brain tissue is acceptable. If only the brain is submitted, the minimum tissue requirements for rabies testing are a complete transverse cross section of the brain stem and tissue from the cerebellum and/or hippocampus. DO NOT FIX BRAIN TISSUE IN FORMALIN!
  • Immediately chill the specimen(s) to between 32°F and 45°F (0°C to 7°C). Gel packs or a similar refrigerant are recommended, rather than ice. If wet ice must be used, please double bag it in sturdy, sealable plastic bags to avoid leaks. Also keep current weather conditions (particularly our hot Texas summers) in mind when packing the specimen and include enough cold packs to keep the specimens at refrigeration temperatures for at least 48 hours.
  • DO NOT FREEZE SPECIMENS!  Freezing may damage the brain tissue and can compromise the test.
  • Please note that due to biohazard safety guidelines the laboratory is unable to return carcasses to submitters.

Shipping and Handling Specimens

Directions for preparing and shipping specimens 

Specimens may be delivered by a courier/shipping service or directly by hand to the Laboratory’s Specimen Acquisition at the Laboratory Specimen Receiving Dock during regular business hours, Monday–Friday 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. The Specimen Receiving Dock is on the north side of the Laboratory building and is accessible from Grover Street, as shown in the DSHS Central Complex campus map.

If you are going to ship a specimen to the laboratory, you must first notify the DSHS Rabies Laboratory by calling the Rabies Hotline: 1-800-252-8163. Advance notification of a rabies submission is required by Texas state law

The Rabies Hotline is available 24-hours a day and allows shipping information to be left in a message. The toll-free number also has instructions on shipping a specimen and how to reach someone after hours in the event of an emergency. 

Note: A completed G-9 Rabies Submission Form is still required to accompany each specimen. Advance 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. 

Click on the following link for a tutorial on submitting rabies specimens to the laboratory: Submitting Rabies Specimens to the Laboratory (383k).


Turnaround Time and Reporting of Rabies Results

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

  • Specimens received between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday–Thursday are tested the following morning and results are available before 12:00 p.m. 
  • At times when the laboratory is processing a high volume of specimens, there may be a delay in the availability of results until after 12:00 p.m. Should you have questions about results availability, please call the DSHS Rabies Laboratory at (512) 776-7595. 
  • All rabies test reports (positive, non-negative, or negative) are available to submitters via fax or through the DSHS Laboratory Remote Data System’s Results-Lab Online as soon as the test result reports are completed. The Lab Online may be accessed via http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/lab/remotedata.shtm.
  • Submitters may obtain reports by fax by updating their account’s results delivery preferences on a Submitter ID Number Request Form and faxing the updated form to 512-776-7533 or email to labinfo@dshs.texas.gov;
    Submitter ID Number Forms are available at: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/lab/mrs_forms.shtm.
  • Rabies Laboratory staff will telephone submitters with all positive and non-negative test results.
  • If you have questions about obtaining laboratory results, please contact Laboratory Reporting at 512-776-7578.

Weekend and Holiday Testing and Result Reporting of Rabies Specimens

  • Specimens received between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Friday are tested on Saturday morning. The laboratory anticipates that positive results for any of these specimens will be reported by 12:00 p.m. Saturday Specimen testing is completed Monday morning and final reports are available by 12:00 p.m. the same day. Submitters may request a preliminary report be available on Saturday for a specimen submitted on Friday by contacting the Rabies Laboratory on Friday at (512) 776-7595.
  • Routine specimens that are 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 status for testing on Monday; test results are available by 5:00 p.m. Monday.
  • Results for specimens received before 8:00 a.m. on “skeleton crew” days are available by 5:00 p.m. Specimens received after 8:00 a.m. on such days receive priority status for testing on the next workday, with results available by 5:00 p.m. (Skeleton crew days are workdays—usually State holidays—for which reduced staffing is in effect.) 
  • For emergency testing on major or Federal holidays (except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, when the laboratory is closed), you must contact the Rabies Laboratory at (512) 776-7595 before a holiday closure to obtain approval and make arrangements for testing.

Emergency Testing of Rabies Specimens

  • To arrange emergency testing of a specimen expected to arrive over the weekend, the submitter must first obtain approval from the Rabies Laboratory. Contact the Rabies Laboratory before 4:00 p.m. Friday at (512) 776-7595 to request emergency testing over the weekend. The laboratory and Zoonosis Control staff members will evaluate the situation and determine if emergency processing is needed. After 4:00 p.m. on Friday, call (512) 776-7111 and request to speak with a regional Zoonosis Control staff member. If it is determined that immediate testing is necessary, the Zoonosis Control member will contact the Rabies Laboratory to make arrangements for testing. The specimen must arrive at the laboratory by 8:00 a.m. Saturday.

Please Note: Certain couriers offer an option for submitters to pay an additional charge for an early morning specimen delivery that meets the Rabies Laboratory’s 8:00 a.m. deadline. If the courier misses this deadline, submitters are encouraged to contact the courier to report the failure to deliver and dispute the delivery charges. Should the specimen and testing be of particular concern, the only reliable way to get a Saturday submission to the lab by 8:00 a.m. is to hand deliver it.  

  • The submitter must provide an after-hours contact telephone number to receive preliminary results. A voice mail system is available at (512) 776-7595 to handle concerns after hours . If the matter is urgent, it is possible to contact the on-call laboratorian- by following the voice mail system instructions.
  • A submitter should not request after-hours testing of a specimen by including the special request on the submission form alone. Laboratory personnel do not review the submission form until they process the specimen. The submitter must request emergency testing by calling (512) 776-7595 or (512) 776-7111. 

Please Note: Approximately two percent of specimens appear suspicious on primary testing and cannot be conclusively reported as rabies positive or negative. These specimens must be tested again. Additional testing will delay the reporting of results for these “suspicious” specimens. Should you have questions about the availability of test results for a specimen that is being retested, please call the Rabies Laboratory at (512) 776-7595. 


Inquiries

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

  • The name of the party that submitted the animal for testing. (This may be a veterinarian, a veterinary clinic, humane society, or other agency or individual.)
  • The city, county, or municipality from which the animal was shipped.
  • The type of animal.
  • Any identifying number or description that may have been included with the animal.
  • The owner’s name (when applicable), and/or the name of the person who made contact with the animal.
  • The approximate date the specimen was shipped.

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


Result Interpretation

Positive

Test results indicate the specimen was positive for rabies virus. Additional information relating to determining the need for rabies prophylaxis should follow the RABIES POSTEXPOSURE PROPHYLAXIS (PEP) FOR HUMANS guidelines found at the DSHS webpage Rabies Treatment in People. More information about rabies prophylaxis is available on the CDC web site.

Rabies Positive The rabies virus fluoresces when exposed to fluorescein-labeled antibody specific to rabies virus. Picture





Rabies Positive The rabies virus fluoresces when exposed to fluorescein-labeled antibody specific to rabies virus.

 

Negative

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

Picture of negative rabies specimen





Rabies Negative No fluorescence is detected after exposure to the fluorescein-labeled antibody specific for rabies virus.

 

Unsatisfactory

Three areas of the brain are tested for the presence of rabies virus: brain stem, cerebellum, and hippocampus. To be confident that an adequate amount of tissue is available 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, the lab staff will 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 type of report is necessary because testing fewer areas of the brain could lead to a false negative, such as not detecting a weakly rabies-positive animal. 
If you receive an unsatisfactory report, decisions about whether or not rabies prophylaxis is needed should be based on the exposure history of the patient to the animal in question and should follow the RABIES POSTEXPOSURE PROPHYLAXIS (PEP) FOR HUMANS guidelines found at the DSHS webpage Rabies Treatment in People.

Inconclusive

An inconclusive report indicates that when the animal was tested for rabies, some material in the brain of the animal 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 of the patient to the animal in question and should consult the RABIES POSTEXPOSURE PROPHYLAXIS (PEP) FOR HUMANS guidelines found at the DSHS webpage Rabies Treatment in People.


Testing Human Specimens

For serologic testing of antibody status (both human and animal samples), refer to 

To handle clinical material from patients who are ill and for which rabies is suspected, please call (512) 776-7111 and request to speak with a regional Zoonosis Control staff member. 
Additional information on rabies exposure and treatment for humans can be found at Texas Department of State Health Services, Infectious Disease Control Unit > Treatment.
General information on rabies management, specimen submission, and reporting can be found at the Zoonosis Control: Rabies Homepage: Rabies | Home (state.tx.us)

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 September 22, 2022