May 13, 2006


If one of these things...

... flies in your window, while you're napping and brushes against you, don't just catch it in a towel and throw it out the window. You may assume it hasn't bitten you, but you might be wrong. A 16-year-old boy in Texas just died of rabies.

Here is my own personal bat story. I ended up with a lot of rabies shots, because we could not be sure that the bat I caught and threw out the window was not rabid.


David said...

To think that could have been avoided with a screen on the window! What a shame.

Living in the desert, screened windows are a must. The list of intruders is long and not limited to: tarantulas, scorpions, spiders, bats, birds, lizards, mosquitos, snakes, and pack rats.

Reading about the rabies shots convinced me long ago to take preventative measures.

My sympathy to you for your series of innoculations and the tragic loss of this young man.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

I was bitten in the face when I was about 3 years old back in the early 1950's by a dog that hadn't been vaccinated. While they were waiting to see if the dog was rabid, the doctor suggested that I have the series of shots. The ones that are given every day into the abdomen. I don't remember the incident myself as I was so young, but for years I would literally scream hysterically, vomit or pass out at the sight of anyone in a white coat until I was 6 years old. I was deathly afraid of needles and refused to have novocaine at the dentists office until I was 12. Even today I break out into a cold sweat when confronted with needles in the form of blood tests or at the dentist.

My parents said it was a horrendeus experience for them too. They tried to change the route to the Hospital so that I wouldn't suspect where we were going but I guess I figured it out after a few trips. They had to drag my three year old self, screaming and crying, from under the bed or back of the closet. The guilt they felt was terrible, but the consequence of death was worse.

After half of the treatments, about 14 days of torture, the dog turned out to not be rabid.

Thank God they don't have this treatment anymore.

Palladian said...

I admit it, I love bats. But not in the house.

Vole. Mole. Different order! Different animals! Do not besmirch the noble mole by association with that warmed over mouse!

Jacques Cuze said...

Thank you for linking to the article in Texas. As a parent, it's both good (and sad) to know.

I am curious: did you survive? I mean, being one of the undead could explain a lot of your interest in American Idol and Republican politics.

May I send you a pretty garlic wreath? Don't take it off! One girl named Lucy did....

Meade said...

More likely than getting rabies from being bitten by an infected bat flying in your window is getting rabies from the family cat:

The major animal source of rabies in the United States has changed from dogs and cats to wild carnivores and bats. Between 1960 and 1991, animal vectors were identified in 26 indigenously acquired cases of rabies. Ten (38 percent) of these cases were attributed to bats. Infection was transmitted both directly through bites and indirectly by airborne transfer. Bats are also a serious source of infection to other animals, particulary domestic cats. Sick or paralyzed bats are easy prey for cats. The risk of rabies infection is increased with cats because they like to play with their prey, and mother cats may bring the captured bat to their kittens to teach them hunting skills. Unknown exposure to rabies may occur when young children handle paralyzed bats that were brought by a mother cat to domestic kittens.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christy said...

Wow! It never occurred to me to even consider the bat that kept getting in through the chimney was rabid. I had the toughest time getting it out of the house. It took a firm grip on the inside of a window screen and I couldn't get it off without harm so I just left it there. Next day the bat settled on a lamp shade. It just sat there while I unscrewed the finial, took the shade off, and walked it outside where I left it on a garden bench. Doubly lucky because my cat does play with its prey. (The joys of a cat who thinks my sleeping splayed legs make a good corral for her new mouse toy!)
Guess I'd been seduced by stories about mosquito eating bats to think that "bats are our friends."

Ricardo said...

"...the treatment consisted of using drugs to induce a coma, to deliberately shut down the ... brain while the disease passed through."

Sounds like just another night at any frat house, trying to work through "the disease" of school. Little did we know we were taking prophylactics against rabies. But it also reminds me of all the screwdrivers I drank to prevent scurvy, or the gin and tonics to prevent malaria.

Word verification: oliyive

Oh, thanks for reminding me. I forgot about the martinis and oliyives with Omega-3s for heart disease.

Palladian said...

Bats are our friends, Christy. But even our friends can sometimes give us diseases and kill us.

Sanjay said...

Tangential, but fascinating:

Our two year old loves nature documentaries. I think we have every David Attenborough video ever. We just got "Life in the Undergrowth" -- _amazing_ footage of bugs. Anyway: in the first episdoe, there is --- get this -- a HUGE centipede which can grab a flying bat out of the air and eat it.

Possibly less worth having in the house than the rabid bat, however. At least aesthetically.

Aspasia M. said...

eeek! Just reading this post has scared me. At least I know my cat is safe, as he gets a rabies shot once a year.

Bats are able to get into houses in the darnest ways. A entire family that we know (parents & a toddler) had to get rabies treatment because of a bat in their house. They caught the bat and it tested positive for rabies.

When I was a Girl Scout my troop camped in a cave with bats. I thought they were cute. However, that was before I understood about the rabies issue.

PatCA said...

Notice the last sentence--Wildlife experts say they consume insects and help pollinate useful plants--to stave off a 'backlash'.


Ricardo--too funny.

chuck b. said...

Bats are cool. They eat tons of mosquitos.

I think I could deal with finding a bat in my house, but a desert tarantula...? I don't think I could sleep at night.

amba said...

Is that a bat or a unicorn??

vbspurs said...

Oh no, it's the return of the bat, on Althouse!

The squirrels are next, mark me.


vbspurs said...

I think I could deal with finding a bat in my house, but a desert tarantula...? I don't think I could sleep at night.

My worst nightmare. And probably the reason I have never been to Vegas yet.

A friend of mine who lives there, has one taxidermed, and pegged to her wall...*shiver*


(word verification: jgxxazin. This is batsqueak for "Go for Althouse's neck!")

vbspurs said...

... flies in your window, while you're napping and brushes against you, don't just catch it in a towel and throw it out the window.

Maybe it's because I'm Yourapeein, or something, but bats don't bother me.

Old houses, I mean really old houses, the kind my great-grandmother had in Austria (circa 1500s), have their share of bats, which swoop down, and make the ladies in the room, instinctively reach for their hair and cover it.

But no one tries to catch them, or much less, chuck them out of windows in towels.

That's some weird, lawsuit-careful American custom which needs no further comment.


Simon Kenton said...

When my wife went out to investigate the commotion, she found the dogs were worrying at a downed bat. It spat at her. We learned from this that while it is rare, people have died without ever being bitten -- contact with the aerosolized virus is sufficient to claim a grave: cavers and (I think) one Althouse-figure who had it fly through the house.

The present course of shots is not bad, though expensive.

Tarantulas are a tiny heft in the hand, deliberate in their motion, hairy, the rows of eyes discomfitting. But I'd a lot rather handle one than get nailed again by that little clear, deadly Arizona scorpion, or by a velvet ant.

Daryl Herbert said...

Guess I'd been seduced by stories about mosquito eating bats to think that "bats are our friends."

Bats are fine animals. It's the ones that behave like they're drunk that you've got to watch out for.

Notice the last sentence--Wildlife experts say they consume insects and help pollinate useful plants--to stave off a 'backlash'.


So you support genocide? And you're mad at the "liberal" media for attempting to give both sides of the story?

How many bats have been killed by people compared to vice versa? How much human poop has been stolen by bats, as opposed to vice versa?

Jacques Cuze said...


Hillingham, 25 August.--Another bad night. Mother did not seem to take to my proposal. She seems not too well herself, and doubtless she fears to worry me. I tried to keep awake, and succeeded for a while, but when the clock struck twelve it waked me from a doze, so I must have been falling asleep. There was a sort of scratching or flapping at the window, but I did not mind it, and as I remember no more, I suppose I must have fallen asleep. More bad dreams. I wish I could remember them. This morning I am horribly weak. My face is ghastly pale, and my throat pains me. It must be something wrong with my lungs, for I don't seem to be getting air enough. I shall try to cheer up when Arthur comes, or else I know he will be miserable to see me so.


17 September.--Four days and nights of peace. I am getting so strong again that I hardly know myself. It is as if I had passed through some long nightmare, and had just awakened to see the beautiful sunshine and feel the fresh air of the morning around me. I have a dim half remembrance of long, anxious times of waiting and fearing, darkness in which there was not even the pain of hope to make present distress more poignant. And then long spells of oblivion, and the rising back to life as a diver coming up through a great press of water. Since, however, Dr. Van Helsing has been with me, all this bad dreaming seems to have passed away. The noises that used to frighten me out of my wits, the flapping against the windows, the distant voices which seemed so close to me, the harsh sounds that came from I know not where and commanded me to do I know not what, have all ceased. I go to bed now without any fear of sleep. I do not even try to keep awake. I have grown quite fond of the garlic, and a boxful arrives for me every day from Haarlem. Tonight Dr. Van Helsing is going away, as he has to be for a day in Amsterdam. But I need not be watched. I am well enough to be left alone.

Thank God for Mother's sake, and dear Arthur's, and for all our friends who have been so kind! I shall not even feel the change, for last night Dr. Van Helsing slept in his chair a lot of the time. I found him asleep twice when I awoke. But I did not fear to go to sleep again, although the boughs or bats or something flapped almost angrily against the window panes.


20 September. Arthur went off with him, casting back a longing look on Lucy's face, which lay in her pillow, almost whiter than the lawn. She lay quite still, and I looked around the room to see that all was as it should be. I could see that the Professor had carried out in this room, as in the other, his purpose of using the garlic. The whole of the window sashes reeked with it, and round Lucy's neck, over the silk handkerchief which Van Helsing made her keep on, was a rough chaplet of the same odorous flowers. Lucy was breathing somewhat stertorously, and her face was at its worst, for the open mouth showed the pale gums. Her teeth, in the dim, uncertain light, seemed longer and sharper than they had been in the morning. In particular, by some trick of the light, the canine teeth looked longer and sharper than the rest.

I sat down beside her, and presently she moved uneasily. At the same moment there came a sort of dull flapping or buffeting at the window. I went over to it softly, and peeped out by the corner of the blind. There was a full moonlight, and I could see that the noise was made by a great bat, which wheeled around, doubtless attracted by the light, although so dim, and every now and again struck the window with its wings. When I came back to my seat, I found that Lucy had moved slightly, and had torn away the garlic flowers from her throat. I replaced them as well as I could, and sat watching her.

At six o'clock Van Helsing came to relieve me. Arthur had then fallen into a doze, and he mercifully let him sleep on. When he saw Lucy's face I could hear the sissing indraw of breath, and he said to me in a sharp whisper."Draw up the blind. I want light!" Then he bent down, and, with his face almost touching Lucy's, examined her carefully. He removed the flowers and lifted the silk handkerchief from her throat. As he did so he started back and I could hear his ejaculation, "Mein Gott!" as it was smothered in his throat. I bent over and looked, too, and as I noticed some queer chill came over me. The wounds on the throat had absolutely disappeared.

For fully five minutes Van Helsing stood looking at her, with his face at its sternest. Then he turned to me and said calmly, "She is dying. It will not be long now. It will be much difference, mark me, whether she dies conscious or in her sleep. Wake that poor boy, and let him come and see the last. He trusts us, and we have promised him."

And then insensibly there came the strange change which I had noticed in the night. Her breathing grew stertorous, the mouth opened, and the pale gums, drawn back, made the teeth look longer and sharper than ever. In a sort of sleepwaking, vague, unconscious way she opened her eyes, which were now dull and hard at once, and said in a soft,voluptuous voice, such as I had never heard from her lips, "Arthur! Oh, my love, I am so glad you have come! Kiss me!"

Arthur bent eagerly over to kiss her, but at that instant Van Helsing, who, like me, had been startled by her voice, swooped upon him, and catching him by the neck with both hands, dragged him back with a fury of strength which I never thought he could have possessed, and actually hurled him almost across the room. "Not on your life!" he said, "not for your living soul and hers!" And he stood between them like a lion at bay.

I stood beside Van Helsing, and said, "Ah well, poor girl, there is peace for her at last. It is the end!"

He turned to me, and said with grave solemnity,"Not so, alas! Not so. It is only the beginning!"

"Tomorrow I want you to bring me, before night, a set of post-mortem knives."

"Must we make an autopsy?" I asked.

"Yes and no. I want to operate, but not what you think. Let me tell you now, but not a word to another. I want to cut off her head and take out her heart. Ah! You a surgeon, and so shocked! You, whom I have seen with no tremble of hand or heart, do operations of life and death that make the rest shudder. Oh, but I must not forget, my dear friend John, that you loved her, and I have not forgotten it for is I that shall operate, and you must not help. I would like to do it tonight, but for Arthur I must not. He will be free after his father's funeral tomorrow, and he will want to see her, to see it. Then, when she is coffined ready for the next day, you and I shall come when all sleep. We shall unscrew the coffin lid, and shall do our operation, and then replace all, so that none know, save we alone."

"But why do it at all? The girl is dead. Why mutilate her poor body without need? And if there is no necessity for a post-mortem and nothing to gain by it, no good to her, to us, to science, to human knowledge, why do it? Without such it is monstrous."

For answer he put his hand on my shoulder, and said, with infinite tenderness, "Friend John, I pity your poor bleeding heart, and I love you the more because it does so bleed. If I could, I would take on myself the burden that you do bear. But there are things that you know not, but that you shall know, and bless me for knowing, though they are not pleasant things. John, my child, you have been my friend now many years, and yet did you ever know me to do any without good cause? I may err, I am but man, but I believe in all I do. Was it not for these causes that you send for me when the great trouble came? Yes! Were you not amazed, nay horrified, when I would not let Arthur kiss his love, though she was dying, and snatched him away by all my strength? Yes! And yet you saw how she thanked me, with her so beautiful dying eyes, her voice, too, so weak, and she kiss my rough old hand and bless me? Yes! And did you not hear me swear promise to her, that so she closed her eyes grateful? Yes!


I must have slept long and soundly, for it was broad daylight when Van Helsing waked me by coming into my room. He came over to my bedside and said, "You need not trouble about the knives. We shall not do it."

"Why not?" I asked. For his solemnity of the night before had greatly impressed me.

"Because," he said sternly, "it is too late, or too early. See!" Here he held up the little golden crucifix.

"This was stolen in the night."

Stiles said...

It happens...

Almost ten years ago, I stepped out of the shower and began toweling off. Unbeknownst to me, a bat had perched on my towel. Needless to say, the bat did not appreciate being ground against my skull and promptly bit me behind my ear.

Fortunately, I was able to catch the bat, whack it, and take it to a vet clinic for transport to the state lab for testing. Pending the test results, I was started with the standard post-exposure treatment. Got a tetanus booster, a shot of immunoglobulin at the site, and the first shot in the rabies series in the arm (better than in the old days with the abdominal injections). Neither the tetanus booster or the rabies shot was a problem, but the immunoglobulin behind the ear left a nice egg. Fortuanately, the test results came back negative and I didn't need to continue the rabies series.

Poor bat! Still, best to err on the side of caution.

Ann Althouse said...

Stiles: That's gross!

I had to get the immunoglobulin shots in the back of my finger. That was really hard.

Stiles said...

Sorry to gross you out!

Growing up on a farm, I'd hear from our veterinarians about the unpleasantness of the old rabies series delivered abdominally. But today, it is the immunoglobulin shot that produces the greatest discomfort.