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Beemer

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Rabies is scary [Oct. 31st, 2006|11:46 pm]
Beemer
I heard part of the Halloween edition of This American Life the other day on the drive home, and I thought I would share because it was genuinely freaky, creepy, scary, and absolutely true.

They told the story of this woman who lives in upstate New York who was out for a walk one day when she saw this raccoon. As soon as it saw her, it came charging at her, hissing and spitting, and it just attacked her, relentlessly. She eventually managed to pin it and call her family for help, but it was totally, unwaveringly hostile, and they ended up having to beat it to death with a tire iron. Then there was a separate horror story about her trying to wend her way through a bureaucratic maze to get the vaccine, because of course the raccoon was rabid.

So here's the really scary bit, which is about rabies: rabies is 100% fatal in humans unless you get the vaccine within 72 hours. And the way that it works is that it attacks the aggression centers in the brain. Not only does it make infected creatures violent and aggressive, it also makes them immune to pain. An infected critter sees another critter, and it immediately runs after it to attack it and spread the virus. And there's nothing at all supernatural about any part of this -- it's just how Nature works in this case.

Here's the best part: bats can get rabies, too. If a bat bites you while you're sleeping, not only might it not wake you up, sometimes it won't even leave a mark! So if you find one in a room with someone sleeping, it's important to catch it and get it tested.

[Bats are still very cool and generally do NOT have rabies, though, so don't be getting all paranoid about them.]

Nature is scary sometimes.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: nematsakis
2006-11-01 08:08 am (UTC)
I've been reading Carl Zimmer's evolution weblog recently and there are some crazy stories about how parasites can affect the behavior of their hosts in order to spread more easily. Also, I find some of the stories on this site to be terrifying. Check out the one on Leucochloridium varidae. Eeeew!


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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-11-01 10:20 pm (UTC)
Awesome + freaky. I think the sea louse tongue wigs me the most.
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[User Picture]From: goobermunch
2006-11-01 01:47 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, but your post is not entirely accurate. Rabies does not have a 100% fatality rate. The only reason I'm bringing this up, is because I think you'll totally geek out about the one case of treatment without vaccine.

It seems that a teenaged girl contracted rabies after a bat bite. Unfortunately, she was not vaccinated within the 72 hour window. Approximately a month later, she was admitted to the hospital with the infection in full effect.

Knowing that his patient was likely to die, the doctor at the hospital tried something radical. He put her into a coma for something like a month. Then, they brought her out again. She seems to be doing well.

Here's an article with a little more information. A more scientific treatment isn't available to me, since I'm not a subscriber to the New England Journal of Medicine.

--G
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2006-11-01 02:24 pm (UTC)
If you can post a full citation, I can send you the article, if you're interested.
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[User Picture]From: goobermunch
2006-11-01 03:03 pm (UTC)
Is this a full cite? June 16, 2005 Number 24 Volume 352:2508-2514.

Oh, and my email is Thomas dot neville atsign gmail.

--G
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2006-11-01 03:21 pm (UTC)
Should be on its way.
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2006-11-01 04:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, my. Now that I've read the case, I'm totally creeped out. Good on them, but still, wow.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-11-01 06:41 pm (UTC)
I *knew* I should have said "nearly 100%". Never make absolute statements.

I'd heard about that case. It's pretty cool.
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2006-11-01 09:38 pm (UTC)
well, almost never.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-11-01 10:19 pm (UTC)
*ding!* ;)
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2006-11-01 02:20 pm (UTC)
This was a fabulous show. There was also a story about a "haunted house" the effects of which were all determined to be side effects of monoxide poisoning. The house had gas fixtures. This tells us one of the reasons the houses of a certain period of architecture (Victorian Gothic) are so often considered "haunted."

Between the monoxide poisoning and the rabies, this show accounted for a very large portion of scary stories. (Zombies could certainly be rabid.)

There were also stories about mean parents, but this is to be expected on This American Life.

Now I'm thinking about To Kill a Mockingbird which has a rabid dog, and that fabulous scene with Scout bumping around in a ham costume.
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[User Picture]From: da_lj
2006-11-01 05:53 pm (UTC)
Ha ha. I had forgotten about Scout's ham costume.

Perfect story for Halloween.

Going to look up the episode this weekend, for certain. :)
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[User Picture]From: portlandpiglet
2006-11-01 05:36 pm (UTC)
Who needs the supernatural when the natural is so freaky scary?!
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