Human Health Risk
Rabies is a reportable disease and
if an animal, wild or domestic is suspected of being rabid, by law it
is required to be reported. Call the nearest office of the Canadian
Food Inspection Agency, which will be listed in the blue pages of the
phone book. All calls will be investigated by an inspector from the
The rabies virus can infect all
warm-blooded animals, and the infection nearly always ends in death.
Infection is usually achieved via bite or scratch of a rabid animal,
although transmission can possibly occur in bat caves where the
amount of virus is extremely high and the high humidity can stabilize
the virus. The air laden with virus and saliva can then make
contact with nerve endings in the nasal passages and cause an infection
without a bite.
Since reporting began in Canada in
there have been 23 people that have died. (OSH answers: Rabies)
The most recent case of rabies infection in Canada is a man who live east of Edmonton and was bitten by a bat in August of 2006. The man did not seek immediate medical attention and was known to be in critical condition in an Edmonton hospital March 2, 2007. (CBC.ca)
In September of 2004 a fifteen year old girl in Wisconsin sustained a small bite on her left index finger after picking up a bat she found in a church. Her mother decided not to seek medical attention and 37 days later Jeanna developed symptoms of rabies. It has been discovered that rabies causes death by temporary brain dysfunction and not permanent brain damage. The doctors decided to induce Jeanna into a coma to stop brain function while her body mounted an immune response against the rabies virus. She was revived seven days later, and after an additional 31 days in hospital was declared free of rabies. She attended some physio and has regained all of her cognitive abilities.
Induction of a coma has been attempted in four other cases since Jeanna’s and all have failed. Skeptics claim that Jeanna had an avirulant strain or that she has an unusually strong immune system, and have since referred to this treatment as “Jeanna’s Treatment.” (Jeanna Giese Wikipedia article, Willougby et al. 2005)