Another rabies survivor

All the neighborhood kids love mah puppeh, Arnie.

They are out playing in the playground, see me and Arnie coming, and they come running over to give Arnie lovies and to get Arnie kissies.

And, seeing as my parents and most of my aunts and uncles are teachers, I make sure to use this opportunity to teach the kids something: “While its okay to run over to give Arnie lovies, they should always ask an owner whether it is okay to pet their puppy and to never, ever, EVER approach an animal when their owner is not around.”

I need to add “If you see a sick birdy or kitten or puppy, tell your parents so they can call a professional to come help it.”

Animals might be sweet-peas when they are fed, happy, and healthy, but that same animal when its sick might behave very differently. Sick/Hurt dog might bite you, whether it has rabies or not. A wild bat might bite you, whether its sick or not, whether it has rabies or not. Rabies isnt always as obvious as what we saw in ‘Old Yeller’. Now, if you *know* you have been exposed to rabies, there is a vaccine and a series of anti-rabies antibody shots that greatly increase your chance of survival (considering the chance of survival without treatment is 0-10%, its hard *not* to improve on that). But if you dont *know* you were exposed until you start showing symptoms of infection, then its too late.

But that might be changing (at least in the US). In 2004, physicians in Milwaukee developed a treatment protocol which managed to save a 15-year-old girl– Because people die from rabies because of their brain freaking out, the physicians tried to take her brain out of the equation. They put her into a coma. With her brain out of the way, the antivirals and her own immune system could eliminate the virus, and the physicians could turn her brain back on when the coast was clear. That totally worked, and that rabies infected teenager recently graduated from college.

While the Milwaukee protocol has been tried in other parts of the world, the places where people are more likely to be exposed to rabies dont have the same kind of medical technologies as we have in the US, so it has had varying degrees of success.

But in the US, it looks like this works, because physicians just saved another kid. It seems a little girl approached a strange cat and was bitten/scratched. She didnt think to do anything about it (*shrug* cats bite/scratch), however that injury managed to infect the little girl with rabies. Its heartbreaking to read how her grandmother described her symptoms:

Tests in early May revealed she had the disease after Precious’s grandmother took her to the doctor because of flu-like symptoms that grew so serious her grandmother said they began to resemble polio.

Her grandmothers comment made me wonder if there are any anti-vaxers who would rather go through what that poor little girl went through, rather than succumb to a few shots, if they were ever exposed to rabies…

Comments

  1. #1 Mu
    June 14, 2011

    You might want to hop over to RI and invite the latest batch of germ theory deniers to discuss the last question. Be aware, the level of discussion includes gems like “small pox vaccine was a placebo”.

  2. #2 Equisetum
    June 14, 2011

    The hospital said she’s the third person in the United States known to have recovered from the virus without having antiviral inoculations immediately after becoming infected,

    I didn’t hear about the second case. This is really good news, and I guess the Milwaukee protocol is now verified? I know there were doubts expressed after the first case that she had really contracted rabies.

  3. #3 Prometheus
    June 14, 2011

    I am a little less gentle in explaining to kids why you don’t approach an animal you don’t know.

    If they are the kind of kid who goes crazy over animals, I tell them if they scare an animal and get bitten, the animal will be destroyed.

    It used to be the case that this was for brain tissue testing and rabies. The saliva test works now but animal control will usually euthanize the animal anyway.

    It may seem harsh but instead of making kids scared of animals they are scared for them. It also reinforces my advice that the best way to show affection for a wild animal is to avoid it.

    Your penguin fever story comes to mind.

  4. #4 JustaTech
    June 14, 2011

    I distinctly remember the story my mom told me to make sure I never touched any wild mammal:

    A young friend of mine had gone on a camping trip with his parents and found a racoon at the campsite. They told him to leave it alone, but he had to pester it, and it bit him. Then he had to get TWENTY giant shots in the tummy with a really BIG needle.

    I was really not into shots as a kid (or now, to be honest), and that scared the crap out of me. Even now, when I see a racoon, my instinct is to run like hell.

  5. #5 jaranath
    June 14, 2011

    “I want to go home and play with (my dog) Copper.”

    Oh…BAAAWWWW!!!

    GodDAMN, but that has me weepy! Sweet girl has no frakking clue how close she was to death, how sealed her fate WAS but for this new desperate measure, and now she gets to live and go home and play with Copper and grow up and…

    YAY DOCTORS!
    YAY SCIENCE!

  6. #6 Prometheus
    June 14, 2011

    JustaTech@#4

    “Even now, when I see a racoon, my instinct is to run like hell.”

    You should see the reaction of the international students when they see the armadillos. Then the student screams and the armadillo jumps three feet in the air.

    We have these little dramas across the street every summer.

    P.S. the saliva test I mentioned at #3 is unapproved so they are still doing DFA. That’s what I get for reading “science journalists”.

    I knew a lady at the health department who had the job of DFA testing frozen severed animal heads….she once told me she did not have the worst job in the word. That belonged to whoever had to sever and freeze them for her to test.

  7. #7 William Wallace
    June 14, 2011

    made me wonder if there are any anti-vaxers who would rather go through what that poor little girl went through, rather than succumb to a few shots, if they were ever exposed to rabies

    This non-sequitur indicates that you’re either: 1. dishonest; 2. confused
    As for possible confusion, have you confused anti-vaxers with those who believe in faith healing? Surly you know the difference between declining preventative treatment and declining treatment for an actual medical condition.
    While I am sure some anti-vaxers are also into faith/prayer healing, many if not most others make their decision upon micro analysis, as opposed to the CDC et al. macro analysis. In an increasingly highly vaccinated society, the risk of not getting vaccinated decreases, while the risk of getting vaccinated is pretty much constant. Furthermore, some anti-vaxers postpone some vaccinations, e.g., chicken pox, because the vaccine is 99% designed to save the country money (so mommy or daddy don’t have to take a week off from work). A normal 5 year old getting chicken pox is a known risk. Getting the chicken pox vaccine has unknown long term consequences that we have not yet demonstrated.

  8. #8 SoulmanZ
    June 14, 2011

    uhh .. William, the vaccine does not have a 2 in 100000 death rate, so it is already leagues ahead, right?

  9. #9 Lance
    June 14, 2011

    @Equisetum:

    I think the second case had a rabies like illness but virus was never isolated. There are a few other viruses of the lyssavirus family that can cause a rabies like illness but might be less pathogenic. I seem to remember seeing that on ProMED mail somewhere.

    It looks like this protocol will become the standard of care for clinical rabies. Unfortunately most cases occur in countries where this may not be possible. Up to a third of children with rabies in the developing world don’t have a history of animal bite. Most deaths occur in children.

  10. #10 William Wallace
    June 15, 2011

    Reference please on claim that 2 in 100,000 healthy children die from Chickenpox. Exclude immune compromised (e.g., cancer, HIV) children, as well as children who die from staph infections.

    Regarding Precious, the lesson here isn’t about vaccination of humans who are bit by rabid animals.

    The lesson should be about vaccination of animals. The cat was described as feral, and if true, the culprit is whatever cat owner let their cat or its descendants go feral.

  11. #11 Azkyroth
    June 15, 2011

    Frankly, the anti-vax kooks DESERVE to get rabies. If they don’t already have it.

    Unfortunately, they’d inflict their fuckingsick-ness on their children, too. :(

  12. #12 Ender
    June 15, 2011

    Someone: “made me wonder if there are any anti-vaxers who would rather go through what that poor little girl went through, rather than succumb to a few shots, if they were ever exposed to rabies”

    William Wallace “This non-sequitur indicates that you’re either: 1. dishonest; 2. confused

    That you believe that his comment was a non-sequitur indicates that you’re either 1.) Some sort of zealot, completely unable to understand what is being said if it comes from “the other side”, or 2) Too stupid to understand why it’s a sequitur, and possibly too stupid to know what a real non-sequitur would look like.

    The obvious context of this slightly tongue in cheek comment was a) that Anti-Vaxxers are often emotional types whose objection to shots is based more on a reflexive distrust of anything being injected into their body, rather than an understanding of the science or the safety statistics, and b) those who have more ‘complex’ (though still wrong) objections often mention “toxins” many of which might be in this Rabies shot – so perhaps they would wish to take this treatment, rather than risking “Vaccine Damage” in them or their offspring, from unspecified and non-existant “toxins”.

    If you are incapable of understand his comment now – or at the very least understanding that it’s not a non-sequitur even if you think it is wrong, then it’s best if you don’t reply and reveal the depths of your inability to think.

  13. #13 jaranath
    June 15, 2011

    Are you familiar with WillyWally, Ender? This is one of his more coherent utterances, though I must admit I haven’t seen much of him lately and don’t recall him being an antivaxxer. He’s showing some signs, though; especially the implication that deaths are what matter.

    I’d argue with him–he’s got a strange perspective on this story and some bad assumptions about the virus’ complications–but with WillyWally, there’s really no point.

  14. #14 William Wallace
    June 15, 2011

    Ender, you’re too stupid to know he’s a she.

  15. #16 Calli Arcale
    June 15, 2011

    Exclude immune compromised (e.g., cancer, HIV) children, as well as children who die from staph infections.

    I know this is offtopic, but I’m just curious — why must we exclude deaths due to infections which would not have occurred if the patient didn’t have chickenpox?

    I have a relative who is permanently disfigured due to facial nerve damage caused by shingles. (And this isn’t just cosmetic disfigurement, which would be bad enough; she can’t close one of her eyes completely, and she has trouble eating and drinking.) I’ve never been vaccinated against chickenpox (except the old-fashioned way, which I’m leery of because I actually had it *twice*), but when I’m old enough to qualify for the shingles vaccine, I am totally getting it.

  16. #17 JustaTech
    June 15, 2011

    Associated question: is there a human vaccine against rabies, and if so, why is it not part of the standard schedule? I know there are lots of vaccines that aren’t part of the standrd schedule due the the likelyhood of encountering the pathogen (eg, yellow fever), but unless the rabies one had a very high rate of adverse events, or low protection, I’d sure as hell get it. Rabies is right up there with tetnus on the list of stuff I don’t want to screw around with.

  17. #18 Shirah
    June 15, 2011

    Funny experience with an anti-vaxer story time!
    I work in an animal emergency and critical care facility as a nurse (that’s a tech, for my fellow vet med types). A dog presented to the clinic dietary indiscretion of the sock variety. When I asked the owner (as part of a complete medical history) if the dog was up to date on vaccines, the owner said, “No. I’m not willing to risk giving him autism.”
    Took all my will power to not laugh. Because the owner was TOTALLY. FOR. SERIOUS. She didn’t want her sock-eating-adorable-idiot of a dog to get autism. Autism. In a DOG. That eats SOCKS. No joke.

  18. #19 Edward I
    June 15, 2011

    Here’s a source even a religotard like Wallace might accept: The estimated death rate for chicken pox is 1.4 per 100,000 cases (0.00 14%) in normal children, but rises to 30.9 deaths per I 00,000 cases (0.0309 %) in adults. The death rate is 7% in children with leukemia.

    Nothing like having someone else do your work for you, eh?

    Exclude immune compromised (e.g., cancer, HIV) children, as well as children who die from staph infections

    Nifty trick to imply that deaths secondary to chicken pox (e.g., staph infections from infected pox) have nothing to do with chicken pox…wait, not nifty, I mean disingenuous ass-hattery.

    Even niftier: ignore the patients that most benefit from vaccine and her immunity protections because then it makes chicken pox look even more safe and cuddly and just a gosh darned inconvenience at worst! Who cares if nobody can predict who might develop childhood cancers or need an organ transplant? Why should one consider the neighbor’s kid, either? Jesus says I’m-a gonna be fine and it’s not like he cared about anyone but numero uno!

    Does it hurt to be such an imbecile?

  19. #20 Cyborgsuzy
    June 16, 2011

    Shirah, I work at a vet clinic and have similar stories (though none THAT good!).

    One client came in for a rabies shot and was being very vocal about how stupid it was that the law required rabies vaccinations, she never vaccinated for anything else because of how dangerous they were, etc. Later, she told the receptionist she came to our clinic because her dog almost died from parvo* last year and the other clinic in town charged so much for hospitalization and treatment.

    *(for those who don’t know, a deadly virus easily prevented with a $10 vaccine)

  20. #21 William Wallace
    June 16, 2011

    I like this one better.

    I know this is offtopic, but I’m just curious — why must we exclude deaths due to infections which would not have occurred if the patient didn’t have chickenpox?

    Because you don’t know that they would not have occured anyway. You can get a staph infection from a tiny scratch whether or not you have chicken pox.

    Maybe this will clear things up: You also have to exclude deaths due to automobile accidents that occur while brining the child to the doctor because he has chicken pox.

  21. #22 tielserrath
    June 16, 2011

    “From the very beginning, Precious had a very rapid, robust immune response to her infection, which is a significant contributor to why she survived,” Dr. Jean Wiedeman, leader of the pediatric team, said in the statement. “She is truly a fighter.”

    I wish they wouldn’t say stuff like this.

    So if your kid gets rabies, and doesn’t mount a ‘robust immune response’, then clearly she/he is a quitter, not a fighter.

    We really need to drop this win/lose dialogue when referring to serious illness.

  22. #23 jaranath
    June 16, 2011

    “You also have to exclude deaths due to automobile accidents that occur while brining the child to the doctor because he has chicken pox.”

    No, you don’t. Not that I’m aware of efforts to track that specific item, of course.

  23. #24 Prometheus
    June 16, 2011

    WW@#21

    “You also have to exclude deaths due to automobile accidents that occur while….”

    Yes you do and no you don’t. It is arbitrary and called ‘Serbian Bullets’. Princip killed between 2 and 137 million people depending on what point you are trying to make about World War One.

    This is a facile little game appropriate to propagandists and apologists that does not really help anyone understand anything.

    ERV made an observation (note: just because you don’t care for an observation does not magically convert it into a non-sequitur)about belief when confronted with a dire consequence associated with maintaining it.

    Many anti-vaxers hold that the risks outweigh the benefits.

    If confronted with the possibility of having contracted rabies (takes ten days to get the DFA results even if you can catch the animal) would they still hold the attitude for themselves that they so cavalierly take on behalf of their children?

    We have been beaten to senselessness with the absurd and repeatedly demonstrably false proposition “there are no atheists in foxholes”
    perhaps it is time to test the validity of the statement “There are no anti-vaxers bitten by foxes”.

    Whatever your opinion regarding the logistic positioning in the post, it is an interesting question which you are hard pressed to cogently address so you are wasting time by spinning chicken pox statistics.

    Now who is wearing the non-sequitur badge huh? Nyah, so there.

  24. #25 Rory
    June 16, 2011

    “Because people die from rabies because of their brain freaking out”

    I heart Abby because of things like this.

  25. #26 Orakio
    June 16, 2011

    @17:

    There is a human rabies vaccine, however, it requires very frequent booster shots and/or blood testing to maintain immunity, roughly similar to the flu vaccine schedule.

    A rough guess: Since rabies transmission is functionally restricted to animal bites, it is simpler to eradicate the disease in domestic animals, and treat potential exposure prophylactically. This firewall is effective enough that we see a bit more than 1 case of human rabies per year in the US, usually bat related, and much of Europe has been declared ‘rabies-free’, at least until it started spreading more frequently from bats. So long as this holds, the human vaccine is not worth the expense or risk of allergic reation for the general population, and is appropriately kept to the at-risk populations.

  26. #27 Joe Ballenger
    June 16, 2011

    I absolutely love Wallace’s reply. Ignore that the person who answered his question also pointed out that it was unreasonable to exclude deaths from disease complications via straw-man.

    Are all antivaxxers this stupid? Normally, I stick to debating creationists but even their arguments are respectable in comparison.

  27. #28 Azkyroth
    June 16, 2011

    Are all antivaxxers this stupid? Normally, I stick to debating creationists but even their arguments are respectable in comparison.

    Well, Creationists aren’t inherently murderous monsters.

  28. #29 William Wallace
    June 17, 2011

    New record for Joe Ballenger: 14 pounds of wrong in three sentences.

    ERV, I haven’t looked into this yet, but it seems sufficiently sciency. Something you might be able to debunk.

    If not, just think, if they can vaccinate for fundementalism, they might even be able to vaccinate against the gay gene, and the libturd gene. Think of all the unnecessary abortions that can be prevented.

  29. #30 William Wallace
    June 17, 2011

    The previous link got muched: FunVax: Hoax?< ?a>

  30. #31 Mary
    June 17, 2011

    We never had rabies in my part of the state, last couple of years it’s been showing up in racoon’s (we bait, trap, and test here)..it’s still sporadic but it’s finally here..

    Many people didn’t bother to spend the money to get animal vac’s, using the deluded thinking that ..since rabies hadn’t found it’s way….why bother

  31. #32 Edward I
    June 17, 2011

    In response to the very reasonable question “why must we exclude deaths due to infections which would not have occurred if the patient didn’t have chickenpox?” Billy responds;

    Because you don’t know that they would not have occured [sic] anyway. You can get a staph infection from a tiny scratch whether or not you have chicken pox.

    I’m sure that he extends this same philosophy towards vaccines, right? I mean, it’s entirely possible to experience many of the known complications of vaccines completely independent of vaccines…therefore any discussion of vaccine safety should discard secondary conditions.

    Or, more likely, he’s a mendacious twit that will gladly rest upon double standards within his intellectual flailing, desperately avoiding cognitive dissonance between his two active neurons.

  32. #33 herr doktor bimler
    June 17, 2011

    It turns out that there are people worried about the side-effects of rabies immunisation for dogs. Consequently, they are lobbying the authorities to accept a homeopathic nosode called Lyssin as an alternative.

    So far there don’t seem to be any homeopaths promoting the homeopathic vaccine for rabies instead of the conventional version (or indeed the Milwaukee Protocol) for people bitten by rabid animals. This is disappointing; they are missing out an opportunity to prove the superiority of homeopathic remedies. It is almost as if they do not really believe that the homeopathic remedy will protect people from a slow, unpleasant and avoidable death.

  33. #34 herr doktor bimler
    June 17, 2011

    while brining the child

    William Wallace is revealing an unhealthy interest in the culinary uses of young people.

  34. #35 Joe Ballenger
    June 19, 2011

    Heh…three sentences, fourteen pounds of wrong and yet absolutely no explanation of why my reasoning is faulty.

  35. #36 BrianX
    June 24, 2011

    The Onion just reposted a very old story about a shaggy dog and a dying child that appeared to be an extended rabies joke. Yes, it was just as offensive as it sounds (all the more so because the point of the joke seemed to be that no one realized the kid was dying from rabies) and it was hilarious. Poisoned glurge. Figured that’d be Abby’s kind of joke…