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Friday, October 21, 2005 

First Mississippi rabies case in almost 50 years

Boy dies from first U.S. rabies case in 2005
The patient had been hospitalized with encephalitis of undetermined origin in September 2005. No history of foreign travel or definitive animal exposure was identified. A greater than fourfold rise in rabies virus antibodies was demonstrated in both paired serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples. No other clinical specimens were available to allow viral characterization and identification of a likely animal source of infection.

Bats are the only known reservoirs of rabies in Mississippi, and the state has reported no human cases since 1956. Although the child stayed at a popular summer camp in Alabama and participated in an overnight caving event in Tennessee during the summer, there were no known exposure incidents at either venue. On additional investigation, it was reported that the child removed a live bat from his bedroom in the spring of this year.
From "spring" to September is pushing the edge of the rabies virus incubation period (which can vary from a few weeks to 6 months), but I suppose it's possible. I also wonder if the parents knew of the bat exposure, and if they contacted an MD--because this is freaking me out a bit. We had 2 bats in our house a few months ago. The first time, we were all sitting around in the living room when it started flying around in there. I rounded up the kids and took them outside, then just left the door open while my husband kind of shooed it outside. The second time, I was taking my son upstairs to bed, and he saw the bat flying around the upstairs landing. That time, we took the kids downstairs and shut the bat in my upstairs office, then caught it and had it tested (negative, as far as I know), but now I wish I'd caught the first one too. Additionally, we never did figure out how they got in the house (screens on all the windows, never found anything up in the attic and never saw any leaving the house at dusk), so it still worries me that perhaps one of the kids had an exposure while they were sleeping. My pediatrician, though, thought I was worrying over nothing (and admittedly, I probably am), and advised against post-exposure prophylaxis. I realize that the odds are low (and in Iowa, skunks are rabies-positive more frequently than bats), but still...my worry as a parent tends to trump my common sense as a scientist.


About me

  • I'm Tara C. Smith
  • From Iowa, United States
  • I'm a mom and a scientist, your basic stressed-out, wanna-have-it-all-and-do-it-all Gen Xer. Recently transplanted from Ohio to Iowa, I've spent most of my life in the midwest (with 4 years of college spent out east in "soda" territory). My main interest, and the subject of my research, is infectious disease: how does the microbe cause illness? What makes one strain nasty, and another "avirulent?" Are the latter really not causing any disease, or could some of those be possible for the development of chronic disease years down the road? Additionally, I've spent a lot of time discussing the value of teaching evolution, and educating others about "intelligent design" and other forms of creationism. My interest in history of science and medicine is also useful as a way to tie all of the above interests together. [Disclaimer: the views here are solely my own, and do not represent my employer, my spouse, that guy who's always sitting by the fountain when I come into work, or anyone else with whom I may be remotely affiliated.]
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