Sean is 11 years old. He was camping with his class at the Okeefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. While there, he was bitten by a raccoon. This is his story in his own words:
I was on a class trip to the Okeefenokee with all my 5th grade class. It was on the first day we all set up our tents and helped the teachers unpack the vans with all the food and stuff.
The second day we were there we went canoeing up the river to Billy’s Island and back. The third day we were there we went half way up to Big Water and back.
The fourth day we all hung out around the camp, then at night, a ranger came and told us funny stories, and then we went to bed.
In the middle of the night I felt a sharp pain in my arm. I looked down and saw two bite marks and some blood. I heard a rustle like something going out of my tent and saw a raccoon. I sat up and called for the teacher. We cleaned out the bite with soap, hot water and a disinfectant.
This transmission electron micrograph (TEM) reveals many dark, bullet-shaped rabies virions (virus particles) in infected tissue. Courtesy USCDC.
In the morning, we went to the hospital in Homerville, Georgia. At the hospital they had a shot ready to knock me out if I was too hysterical, but I didn’t need it.
They took me into a room where I lay there waiting for the pharmacist to get the immune globulin (one of the shots for rabies). While I was waiting for the immune globulin, lots of people came in and asked "are you the boy who got bit?"
"Yes," I would answer.
"Well, you know that you are a lucky boy because 10 years ago you had to get 26 shots in the stomach and boy did they hurt."
Then they would walk away. After they put the I.V. in, they gave me two shots of immune globulin (half was near the bite and half somewhere else), one shot of tetanus and the vaccine.
I had to wait one hour to make sure that I did not have an allergic reaction to any of it. When I got home my parents were glad to see me.
After that I got four more shots over a period of one month.
If you have to get the shots, don’t tense up. Just relax, because it hurts a whole lot less.
If you are around wild animals, don’t mess with them. Just don’t feed them because then later they will come back for more.
Fortunately for Sean, today we have a vaccine that works and is relatively painless. In the past, before a vaccine was available, when someone was bitten by a rabid animal, there was nothing anyone could do except clean the wound and wait to see if they developed rabies. And if they did develop rabies, they would die.
World Rabies Day is September 28.
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This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Sept/Oct 09 - Volume 4 Issue 5, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.