Rabies is most commonly reported in dogs, skunks, raccoons, bats and a few other species. However, any mammal is susceptible, and sometimes unusual cases are identified.

1. In a serious take on Monty Python’s "killer rabbit," a rabid bunny has caused a lot of problems in Chom Thong, Thailand.

The pet rabbit, Poko, had been purchased last year and starting biting the feet of people in the family on June 10. The rabbit was eventually put in a kennel and died July 28. The other rabbit in the house died the next day (no word on why). The time frame is a bit strange, since if the rabbit was biting because of rabies, it should have died a lot quicker. Once an animal is showing signs of rabies, death occurs quite quickly (usually within 10 days), not over a period of 7 or 8 weeks. So, most likely the rabbit wasn’t biting because of rabies, at least at the start.

In response to the diagnosis, authorities have launched an investigation and 120 health officials are fanning out in the area to look for other rabid animals, since where there is one, the are others. Dogs and cats within 5 km of the rabbit’s home are being vaccinated against rabies. Family members are being given post-exposure prophylaxis. The father has expressed concern that the treatment was too late since they were bitten several days before, but it’s not really much of a risk. Rabies typically has a long incubation period, especially with bites to lower extremities, and starting treatment a few days (or even weeks, in some situations) after exposure can still be effective (albeit the sooner the better). The key is for treatment to be started before any signs of rabies develop – after that happens there’s very little that can be done.

The source of rabies isn’t clear and I haven’t seen any speculation. If the rabbit was caged, then there aren’t too many possible sources, with bats probably being the most likely.

2. Swimmers beware… it’s not just rabid otters you need to worry about.

A man swimming in eastern Pennsylvania was bitten by a beaver that was subsequently identified as rabid. The beaver apparently attacked a canoeist earlier that day, before encountering the swimmer, a Boy Scout leader. The man suffered 15 lacerations from the attack, and the beaver remained firmly attached to the man’s arm as he was helped to shore. The stubborn critter wouldn’t let go until the resourceful (and brave) Scouts got it off by hitting it with "anything they could find around them, sticks, rocks…" The beaver was killed and confirmed as rabid.

It’s another reminder that any bite from a mammal should be considered a possible rabies exposure. It’s also a reminder to avoid contact with wildlife, although that can be easier said than done when a rabid animal is involved.  

  • JD

    There was also a rabid beaver attack in Virginia just a couple of weeks ago. 2 little girls (sisters) were attacked while swimming in a lake.