Last week, I wrote about the uncommon situation where a child was attacked by a 60 pound beaver. Any bite from a wild mammal, especially one acting different than normal, needs to be considered a possible rabies exposure, and I was impressed that the family pushed for rabies testing. Unfortunately, it turns out that rabies testing was not possible. The beaver was killed with a crowbar and "The skull was crushed to the point where there wasn’t enough brain material" for testing.
That creates a difficult situation. The likelihood that the beaver had rabies is probably very slim, but rabies is an almost invariably fatal disease. Post-exposure treatment consists of an injection of anti-rabies antibodies and then a series of 4-5 vaccines. It’s not fun, but it’s not typically that big of a deal (particularly compared to the old protocol from decades past). It’s also expensive, which can be a problem if the government or insurance doesn’t cover it. I’d certainly err on the side of caution and get my child vaccinated (been there, done that) but there’s no word what was done in this situation.
Inadequate brain material for testing occurs occasionally based on how a potentially rabid animal is killed. If you are in such a situation and you can avoid destroying the head, try to do so. But, while keeping the head intact when beating off an attacking animal is the goal from a rabies diagnosis standpoint, you can see how it wouldn’t be high on the priority list when actually confronted with an attacking animal.
More information about rabies can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources page.