Cab drivers have to put up with a lot of risks, but attacks from marauding rats probably aren’t high on their list of concerns. However, a Ukrainian cab driver was recently attacked by a rat, and the rat was subsequently killed and found to be positive for rabies. The cab driver is now undergoing post-exposure treatment, and authorities are vaccinating pets and trying to eliminate mice and rats in the nearby neighbourhoods.
This is another good example of why it’s important not to ignore a bite from any mammal, because rabies can affect any mammal. People often don’t consider rodents a concern when it comes to rabies transmission, because most rodents would die from an attack by a rabid animal, thus preventing them from becoming infected and passing on the virus. This is probably true in most circumstances, but there have been enough reports of rabies in rodents, and potential human exposure from contact with rabid rodents, that we have to pay attention to this risk. Overall, the likelihood of acquiring rabies from a rat bite is pretty minuscule, and much less than the risk of contracting other diseases such as rat bite fever, but it’s not zero. Since rabies is almost invariably fatal, even seemingly low risk situations need to be carefully assessed. In the case of this cab driver, there was definitely a risk of rabies exposure. If the rat had not been caught and tested, the potential for rabies exposure might have been dismissed, which could have had catastrophic consequences for the cabbie.
More information about rabies can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources page.