Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I'm blogging out of a sense of helpless frustration and impotent anger today. Throw in a dash in incredulity and a pinch of blind terror while you're at it and you've got the recipe for Claire's emotional state.

I've blogged extensively about my frustrations with the number of feral dogs and cats in our area and it seems that my karma is to deal with the problem more directly than originally thought. A few days ago I was bitten by a feral cat sitting atop our brooder and stressing our chicks out. I grasped it behind the nape of the neck but was unfortunately not centered enough. The animal managed to reach behind and deliver a nasty bite in my right hand, which immediately began to swell. Michael sprang into action, forced the punctures to bleed (not pleasant) and started me on Amoxicillan that night. We attempted several times over the next few days to trap the cat so that we could test it for rabies, but never saw it again.

This morning Michael found the body of the cat that bit me. It has been dead for approximately 72 hours. The incubation period of rabies is 2-6 weeks in cats, but transmission is possible for up to 2 weeks before an animal is symptomatic. Meaning if the cat bit me before showing symptoms and then later became symptomatic and died, it's possible that I was infected.

Just in case you've been raised by rabbits and therefore are unfamiliar with rabies, here's a primer:

Though it is extremely rare in the US with only about 15% of humans exposed to rabies through an animal bite ever contracting the disease, it is considered 100% fatal once symptoms show up. A few have survived, but so few that they are considered statistical outliers. If you start to show symptoms, all they can do is help you make sure your affairs are in order and try to make you comfortable. House is not going to swoop in and save your ass. You are dead. The recommended protocol, or so I thought, is to take a "better safe than sorry" approach when bitten by an animal of unknown health. Sure, the odds are extremely slim that I will contract rabies even if the kitty in question was infected. But let me tell you if you were in my shoes, I can bet you'd be fairly concerned. As far as odds go, rabies is not something you want to be left holding the proverbial short stick with. Because if you are one of those unlucky bastards to come down with the disease, it's a particularly gruesome way to go. Having a strong desire to avoid that outcome I called the Tipton County Health Department. 

Cue circus music.

10 AM: Call TCHD and speak with a nurse. She tells me that a sample must be taken of the cat's brain to determine if it was rabies that killed it. I point out that the cat is dead and has been for a few days. In order to test the brain for rabies, a brain sample must be taken from a live animal and frozen. The virus does not live longer than 24 hours after an animal has died. But rather than take my word for it, she refers me to their wildlife officer/restaurant inspector (I am not kidding). He's out of the office, so I leave voice mail.

1:30 PM: Thinking I might as well just get it over with, I call my doctor to set up an appointment to get prophylactic rabies shots. Better safe than sorry, right? The staff and nurses were very concerned and told me that I should get the shots immediately. Unfortunately rabies shots are administered only through our Health Department due to reporting regulations and whatnot. They recommended that I call the Health Dept back and insist on getting the shots. They remind me that once symptoms start, the disease is 100% fatal. Thanks for the reminder, it had completely slipped my mind.

1:45 PM: I called our vet at Munford Animal Hospital to confirm that there's no need to keep the cat's body because the sample is no longer viable. Veterinarian confirms this, and tells me I should begin treatment for possible rabies infection immediately. They remind me that once symptoms start, the disease is 100 % fatal. Thanks for the reminder, it had completely slipped my mind.

3:00 PM: I call the Tipton County Health Department back and tell them I have still not heard back from their Rabies Officer and would like to go ahead and set up the injections just to be safe. The woman on the phone tells me that the Health Department doesn't give rabies injections, that I have to go to my Primary Care Physician. I tell her through gritted teeth that I was told by my Primary Care Physician that I can only get the shots at the Health Department. The woman (obviously) puts the phone against her chest and calls out "HEY, do we give rabies shots here?" Call is transferred to the nurse I spoke with earlier, who then tells me that they are very selective in who they decide to give the shots to.

"Wha-a-a-a-a-a-???" I stammer out. "But I thought the recommendation was prophylactic treatment anytime someone gets bitten by a wild animal and they cannot locate it for testing."

She actually responds "I know, you'd think that, wouldn't ya?"

We disconnect, I am speechless.

3:30: To get a second opinion (because I'm still incredulous), I call the Shelby County Health Department. I explain that our local health department seems to be a bit less concerned than everyone else I've spoken with concerning my situation. They agree that it is strange that I'm being put aside, and remind me that I should probably start treatment as soon as possible, as a better safe than sorry scenario. They remind me that once symptoms start, the disease is 100 % fatal. Thanks for the reminder, it had completely slipped my mind.

What's most annoying is when health care "professionals" point out that I really should be taking this seriously, yet no one seems to be interested in actually doing anything about it other than reminding me that I should be taking this seriously. Hence my gobsmackedness. So now I have to wait until tomorrow mid day, where they will decide if I should get the shots or not. If I come down with rabies, I am going to go down to the Health Department and BITE EVERY FUCKING ONE OF THEM. No jury would convict me. And besides, even if they did, I'd be dead before it ever went to court. I wonder if any of my victims would be granted a series of prophylactic rabies injections, or if this would be the start of the rabid zombie apocalypse? There's a zombie movie in here somewhere. RABID ZOMBIES!

I can just picture it. As the fluorescent tube lights blink on for the first time of the day, a lone Health Department bureaucrat sits down at her desk, blurry eyed and sipping weak coffee from a mug that reads "Chocolate, men, coffee - some things are better rich." She taps her keyboard, and the screen saver of a desperate kitten hanging from a tree branch with the saying "Hang in there, it's almost Friday" is replaced by her Facebook login screen and the spider solitaire game she's been working on since last week. Today is the day she breaks her losing streak, she just knows it. A strange groaning sound comes from behind her.

"Oh come on, Millie, it's not funny anymore," she rolls her eyes and bends forward, squinting at the line of cards in front of her. 

In a flash, an preternaturally strong arm yanks her chair back, toppling her out of it and into the floor. Looming over her stands a disheveled woman in old Carhartt overalls covered in chicken poop, groaning and foaming at the mouth. The woman wheezes as she reaches down towards the terrified bureaucrat:

"Whyyyy didn't you give me the shhhhhhotsssss...."

Fade to black as the screams of the doomed bureaucrat fill the air.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


1 comment:

  1. Oh and by the by, my day was made PERFECT when I discovered one of the neighbors' seven dogs attempting to kill my brooder and her new chick, followed by the unmistakable sounds of a brand new litter of pups coming from under their trailer. Just. Shoot. Me.