The 15 year old female in Wisconsin who recovered after being diagnosed in an advanced stage of rabies after a bat bite marked a milestone in medicine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this has never happened before. A few people have recovered after showing the early signs of rabies and after being given the rabies vaccine--but no recoveries from advanced rabies have ever been reported. Doctors induced a coma and administered a mixture of antiviral medications, the names of which I do not know. Could this be a new treatment worth using on the next patient with rabies? Who knows? Certainly the treatment will be tried again, and, if it works, the medical world will be closer to learning the answer.
With warming temps and larger numbers of bite-able humans going to the wild places, a few reminders about rabies, it seems to me, are in order:
- Regard all animal bites as a potential rabies exposure.
- Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and disinfected water.
- Evacuate all animal bites immediately for the initiation of the rabies vaccine.
- Avoid close contact with animals, especially if they demonstrate erratic or unusual behavior.
- A prophylactic rabies vaccine is available for people who work or travel in high risk areas.