The 100% Kill Rate - Rabies

Reddit post via PM_ME_THEM_4_SCIENCE

While browsing Reddit, I stumbled upon a post with someone petting a bat. I've heard all the horror stories about keeping bats, but as the title suggested, it did look like a winged puppy.

The comment section linked to a fictional mini-story describing an infected bat biting someone at a camp site. The story was eerie, so I begun the research looking into rabies.

Rabies is present on all continents with the exception of Antarctica, but more than 95% of human deaths occur in Asia and Africa. Once symptoms of the disease develop, rabies is nearly always fatal.

source - World Health Organization

The good news being, there are vaccines so the deadly rabies disease only affects those who are not vaccinated.

Infection

What helps make rabies so deadly is the infection process. A tiny scratch or bite from an infected animal is the transferring of saliva which is all it takes. It may be a week or a year before symptoms develop. This is because of the location and viral load transferred changes the time frame.

Commonly known associated with rabies is the fear of water or hydrophobia. This is part of a form of rabies known as the "furious" stage. The list below shows the two forms with the associated symptoms.

  • Furious Form
    • Hyperactivity
    • Excitable Behavior
    • Hydrophobia
    • Aerophobia
    • Death within days
  • Paralytic Form
    • Paralyzed Muscles
    • Slowly onset coma
    • Death

The paralytic form was often diagnosed due to the long incubation period and long slow course to death.

The One who Lived

In the world of rabies, most are familiar with  Jeanna Geise who was 15 years old in 2004, when she was bit by a rapid bat. She was unvaccinated and only visited the emergency room a month later when the symptoms worsened. This meant that the post-exposure vaccine would no longer work.

The hope was grim, so doctors began an unique treatment known today as The Milwaukee Protocol. Describing the treatment in the most basic sense was a chemically induced coma. In detail though, it was a mix of drugs including Ketamine, Midazolam, Ribavirin and Amantadine.

As her body sat in a coma, the body produced rabies antibodies allowing the body the fight back. Roughly a week later, she came out of the coma having to relearn how to talk, walk and stand. She will continue to live with balance and running issues, but is alive.

Research papers showed that the MP (Milwaukee Protocol) is no longer an ideal treatment. Its expensive, doesn't always work and has a few ethical issues regarding the induced coma.

Conclusion

The World Health Organization currently has a goal "Zero by 30" which is a goal to have zero human deaths by rabies by 2030. This just comes down to vaccines and affordable methods of vaccinating animals in all parts of the world. I wish the world good luck - rabies is a deadly looking disease.

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