While waiting in line to check-in for a flight in Orlando, a JetBlue passenger was bitten by a dog. This raises lots of issues and questions, and for the bitten individual, she’s dealing with a pretty nasty bite and also the potential need for rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.

  • She was bitten while checking in, so it was a public area. Who knows why the dog was there, since JetBlue says the owner is unknown and wasn’t a passenger on one of their flights (not sure how they can say that with much confidence). A bite-prone dog in a busy place like an airport is a recipe for disaster. On a plane would be worse, and I have to wonder if this was a typical “fake” service dog.  I’ve ranted about this before, but the proliferation of these animals is astounding. It’s so common, especially in the US, to see dogs wearing vests identifying them as service dogs, and I recognize a few of those from companies that sell them online as a way for people to bring their pet dogs everywhere. (It’s sad to say, but a general rule for me is that if a dog wearing a “service dog” vest, it’s probably a fake).

The response to the bite raises other issues. No one has been able to identify the dog’s owner.  JetBlue has offered to cover her medical bills and gave her a travel voucher, but has said there’s nothing they can do to identify the person, who promptly left the terminal. Any bite from a dog has to be considered a potential rabies exposure, even though the risk in the US is exceptionally low. However, since rabies is almost invariably fatal, “exceptionally low” is still usually too high. So, if it cannot be proven that the dog is healthy 10 days after the bite, and therefore couldn’t have been shedding rabies virus at the time, a series of post-exposure shots will be indicated.

The article about the bite incident states: Langlois has been on a course of pain meds and antibiotics for the last week, but the real pain may still be ahead if she’s forced to undergo a series of rabies shots, something even her doctor is hesitant to do. “He’s like ‘it’s an extremely painful shot and it’s a series of three, I wouldn’t want you to go through that that if you didn’t have to.”

  • That’s pretty overblown, and scaring people about rabies treatment isn’t good. It’s just a series of vaccines, plus a shot of antibodies (given just like a vaccine). Yes, it hurts a bit but for most people it’s not a big deal. (Yes, I can say this from experience). There are many things I’d rather do than get a rabies shot, but it’s a minor inconvenience.

Most likely, the dog will not be found unless JetBlue and the airport decide to put the time and energy into looking. There’s almost certainly video and a picture of that (or a warning that if the person doesn’t come forward, they’ll have to broadcast the picture to help find him or her) would potentially help track the person down. It doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen, so most likely, the woman will have to get post-exposure prophylaxis and she’ll be fine.

Hopefully that dog stays away from airports now.