Have you thought that rabies was just a virus in animals? Maybe not, but that’s what I have thought my whole life. The rabies virus that is found in humans has one of the highest mortality rates ever. Around 50,000 people are dying worldwide from rabies each year. Although that number for world wide is really big, there have only been 55 cases diagnosed in United States since 1990. Raccoons and bats are most likely to infect people with rabies.
Rabies is an aggressive disease that causes swelling in the brain. People normally get rabies by getting bit by a rabid animal, but it also can rarely be spread by the rabid animals drool (saliva), nose, or even getting bodily fluids in an open wound. Some symptoms of rabies are; needless movement, hallucination, peculiar thoughts, aggressiveness, and muscle spasms. Although these symptoms seem like something you couldn’t miss it can take weeks, even months to have any of them to appear.
The rabies shot was first created by Louis Pasteur in 1885. The vaccine was first tested on a little boy on July 6, 1985 after getting bit by a rabid dog. The rabies shot is made to be fast acting, it has to be able to work quickly otherwise people could start experiencing symptoms and after that the shot is no longer effective. When getting the immunization they will try and put the shot as close to the cut or bite as possible. The shot is highly advised by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to vaccinate directly after you have or think you have been affected by a rabid animal. Almost everybody who was affected and didn’t get a vaccination died due to rabies. It is given to people who are at higher risk of getting bit by a rabid animal. For example veterinarians and animal control are two big ones because they are handling animals that could be vicious. If you have had the vaccine before and you get bit or attacked, us should also get the shot again just to be safe. Although the rabies vaccine can help you live there are some conditions and side effects from the shot that you should be aware of before getting the vaccine. You should not get the shot if you reacted to it last time you had it or are allergic to serious medicine. Also it would not be wise if you have HIV/Aids or cancer. Side effects from the shot include; fever, rash, dizziness, and stomach ache/pains. The good news is you don’t have to have the vaccine to live. There have been some cases of unvaccinated people who survived rabies. Including the one below.
On September 4, 2004 a 15 year old girl was bit by a rabid bat that she was trying to rescue at her church. Jenna Geise was the first person ever to survive rabies without the vaccination. After a couple days Jenna started getting some symptoms but didn’t realize it. On October 13 everything got a little crazy. She started having worse symptoms; slurred speech, hallucinations, and many more. Jenna’s mom took her to children’s hospital and the doctors did a bunch of different tests. The pediatric disease specialist for the hospital heard about what happened and started researching. He was very pleased with what he found. He found out that the humans immune system can fight off almost any virus if it has enough time before the virus reaches the person’s brain. To save some time, it was necessary to put Jenna into an induced coma. Although that may lead to side affects afterward it was what needed to happen for her to live. The doctors gave her a variety of drugs to help and 6 days after Jenna’s body started responding and started to fight off the rabies. After she woke up from her coma she went to lots of rehabilitation so she could learn how to walk and talk again. “After countless hours of work today she is almost back to normal. Putting her in an induced coma was a really big risk to take, but in the end I am very thankful that we made the decision we made because today we still have our daughter!” said Jenna’s Parents.
The actions that were taken on Jenna is now known as the Milwaukee Protocol. It has been recognized world wide but is a very controversial topic. 41 rabies patients have been treated with this protocol but only 6 of them have lived. Doctors and scientists are not sure why this hasn’t worked on everybody but they would still recommend trying it because you might die with or without it, but you have a better chance living if you take the risks. As of 2016 the Milwaukee protocol is considered a failure. Dr. Willoughby for Wisconsin has suggested to test the Milwaukee Protocol on animals but no research has been started at this point.
In Nebraska from 2012-2016 there have been 128 rabies cases with 2013 being the highest with 39 and 2012 being the lowest at 19. Nebraska is currently on an outbreak of rabies. The last outbreak was in 2004 with over 100 cases, but in 2005 the number was cut in half and the outbreak calmed down. Some 2017 cases of rabies were found in Chase County, Furnas County, and a few others in Southwest Nebraska including a bat biting a human who was diagnosed with rabies in 2017. The most recent case of rabies was on May 5, 2018 in Saunders County after a person was bit by a bat. On February 16, 2018 a person in Madison County was bit by a cat that had infected with rabies.
Some interesting facts that I found on rabies is that when one symptom appears it is pretty much fatal. After reading the story above it is very rare that you live if you don’t get the vaccine within a hour or two. Over 96% of rabies occur in Africa and Asia. The percent is so high due to the fact that unfortunately rabies occurs most in poor communities that don’t have very good doctors or healthcare. In India they are teaching the children about rabies, so if they happen to get bit or scratched they don’t just ignore it, they ask or get some help. Something that can also help reduce the number of rabies is if dogs get there shot. Although it might be kinda costly it definitely worth it if you have the money. The most interesting fact that I found is an application for your phone. It is something that improves vaccination campaigns and shows how many dogs are vaccinated and need vaccinating.