Translocation of an Anteater (Tamandua Tetradactyla) Infected With Rabies From Virginia to Tennessee Resulting in Multiple Human Exposures, 2021

Heather N. Grome, MD; Jane Yackley, MPH; Dilani Goonewardene, MPH; Andrew Cushing, BVSc; Marcy Souza, DVM; Ariel Carlson; Linden Craig, DVM, PhD; Bryan Cranmore; Ryan Wallace, DVM; Lillian Orciari, MS; Michael Niezgoda, MS; Satheshkumar Panayampalli; Crystal Gigante, PhD; Mary-Margaret Fill, MD; Timothy Jones, MD; William Schaffner, MD; John Dunn, DVM, PhD


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2022;71(15):533-537. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


On August 16, 2021, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) was notified of a positive rabies test result from a South American collared anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla) in Washington County, Tennessee. Tamanduas, or lesser anteaters, are a species of anteater in which rabies has not previously been reported. The animal was living at a Tennessee zoo and had been recently translocated from a zoo in Virginia. TDH conducted an investigation to confirm the rabies result, characterize the rabies variant, and ascertain an exposure risk assessment among persons who came into contact with the tamandua. Risk assessments for 22 persons were completed to determine the need for rabies postexposure prophylaxis (rPEP); rPEP was recommended for 13 persons, all of whom agreed to receive it. Using phylogenetic results of the virus isolated from the tamandua and knowledge of rabies epidemiology, public health officials determined that the animal was likely exposed to wild raccoons present at the Virginia zoo. This report describes expansion of the wide mammalian species diversity susceptible to rabies virus infection and summarizes the investigation, highlighting coordination among veterinary and human public health partners and the importance of preexposure rabies vaccination for animal handlers and exotic zoo animals.