A man from Jharkhand, India, was bitten by a dog and realized that there was the potential for rabies transmission. That’s good, particularly given the huge problem with rabies in India. However, he didn’t take the recommended approach of proper wound care and getting post-exposure vaccination. Rather, he killed the dog (getting bitten a few more times in the process), cut out its heart with a pair of scissors and ate it raw, exclaiming that now there would be no problem with rabies.

Not a good idea.

Rabies is widespread in India. Every year, 25 000-30 000 people die of this disease. A person in India is bitten every 2 seconds and someone dies of rabies every 30 minutes.

Every dog bite needs to be considered a possible rabies exposure. If a dog that bites someone is not available for quarantine or testing to determine whether it has rabies, post-exposure treatment is necessary. That involves an injection of anti-rabies antibodies and a series of 4 or 5 vaccines, not ingestion of the animal’s heart.

Hopefully, the dog didn’t have rabies and this will go down as a somewhat curious little story. Unfortunately, if the dog had rabies, there is a good chance that this person has been infected, and if infected, he will almost certainly die.

Eating an animal’s heart to prevent rabies transmission may just be a bizarre belief of an unusual individual. This is something that needs to be investigated, however, because if the same belief is held by many other people in the area, they will all put themselves at risk if they are bitten by not seeking appropriate and effective treatment. Not only does killing the dog and eating its heart have no chance of preventing infection, it probably increases the risk of rabies by leading to more bites. More rabies education is often needed in problem areas, and this may be the case here.

Image: Canine heart (source: www.historyforkids.org)