ProMed-mail usually posts a monthly recap of rabies cases in the US. The most recent one (like most of them) doesn’t have anything too astounding, but it provides some good reminders.
Skunk attacks baby
A five-month-old baby that was outside in a car seat was bitten in the face several times by a skunk. The skunk was killed and tested positive for rabies. This is a high risk situation because it involves a young child and bites to the face. Because of that, the incubation period would potentially be very short so prompt treatment of the baby would be needed (and presumably post-exposure treatment was started right away).
Rabid family dog attacks
Five people were bitten by their pet dog, which was subsequently identified as being rabid. This should be a reminder that rabies exposure is still a concern with pets, that pets should be vaccinated, and that rabies exposure must be considered after any bite.
Fox + bite + electric hedge clippers = …
A Virginia man was bitten by a fox, and he then killed the fox with hedge clippers (probably not a pretty sight). The bite did not break the skin (although the man did pass out afterward… not sure whether that was from fear of the bite or the aftermath). Anyway, the fox is only being reported as "presumed" rabid. Given the time frame of the encounter and the press release, I would have thought they’d know the rabies status of the animal, if it was tested. In the absence of knowing that the fox was not rabid, they’d have to assume that it was and take appropriate measures. Since the bite didn’t break the skin, the bite shouldn’t be considered rabies exposure; however, depending on how gory the subsequent fox-clipping was, there might have been exposure to infectious tissues by other means, and post-exposure treatment might have been indicated anyway.
Calf bites, animal health personnel screw up
Rhode Island health officials are trying to track down anyone that might have been exposed to a calf that lived next door to a popular ice cream shop. The calf bit someone and was quarantined. However, it died the next day and in a pretty major screw-up, local animal health officials didn’t notify the state until 3 days later. By that time, the calf’s body was too decomposed to be tested for rabies. So, it must be assumed that the calf was rabid.
A few take home messages:
- Rabies is still around… think about it.
- Vaccinate your pets.
- Avoid contact with wildlife, and if wildlife is behaving abnormally (e.g. attacking), rabies must considered.
- Make sure all bites from mammals are reported so that the need (if any) for rabies post-exposure treatment can be determined.
- Hedge clippers are not the best euthanasia tools.