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Sleeping man bitten by rabid bat

A Canadian news story piqued my interest today – apparently, a man living near Edmonton, Alberta was bitten by a bat during his sleep. Curiosity got the better of me as I tried to recreate the scenario in my head. First of all, “vampire bats” (the kind that feed on the blood of livestock) don’t live in Canada, so this little guy was probably a generic “brown bat.” Brown bats are shy creatures who live on insects primarily, so we know that this bat was in a pretty wacky frame of mind to boldly mistake a sleeping human for a beetle.

Stranger than the behavior of this culinarily confused little mammal, was the behavior of the sleeping victim. Apparently he was unconcerned by the bite and went back to sleep afterwards, never seeking medical attention. I don’t know about you, but if I woke up in the middle of the night with any wild animal sinking its teeth into my flesh, I’d probably not shrug and roll over.

Anyway, the sad news is that this man didn’t get his life-saving rabies shots. Rabies is a very serious condition with a 50% mortality rate! The rabies virus (transmitted through infected animal saliva) wreaks havoc on the brain and nerves. The CDC describes it:

Early symptoms of rabies in humans are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

Isn’t it strange that “fear of water” is part of the rabies syndrome? I’d like to get an explanation of that one from a neurologist…

Anyway, human cases of rabies are quite rare (about 7000 cases/year in the US) and are usually caused by raccoon or skunk attacks. So if you come face to face with a raccoon or skunk “gone wild” my advice is to run away. But if you do get bitten, please go to the hospital immediately and get your rabies shots. You can prevent progression of the disease.

Now, if you’re curious to see if you’re in a rabies “hot zone” check out the CDC’s skunk and raccoon tracking maps (can you believe that someone’s job is to create these?)

And for a good spoof of dangerous animals – check out Dr. Rob’s recent warnings against the common goat. You can tell that he must enjoy Monty Python style humor.

Are you an animal lover? Know of some funny websites or links about animal antics? Do share!

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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5 Responses to “Sleeping man bitten by rabid bat”

  1. OlajideWilliamsMD says:

    Terrific blog!! Hydrophobia is an interesting phenomenon especially because rabid dogs themselves have no fear of water and they continue to lap it until they are no longer able to swallow. The fear that occurs in humans is a response to the suffocating consequences of swallowing. As the disease progresses swallowing (especially liquids) causes a horrible flurry of spasms of the muscles in the throat – the individual feels as if he or she is choking. After some time the very thought of drinking or the sound of running water may trigger these asphyxiating attacks – hence the hydrophobia. Some people die from this (one of many) complication of rabies.

  2. ValJonesMD says:

    My wish was granted! (I had hoped a neurologist would explain the hydrophobia phenomenon – fascinating!) Thanks Dr. Williams!

  3. Anonymous says:

    very interesting, and i too wanted to see what a neurologist would say, and there it was , so thanks to both of you!!!!!! there is nothing you cant find that is intriguing and interesting, that is not on revolution health, its rocks!!!! keep the great articles and facts coming!

  4. StacyBStryerMD says:

    Interesting blog, Val. My family has had the unfortunate experience of having a suspicious-looking bat in our house and, because somebody dispensed of it without testing it, we all had to undergo rabies shots. This is because there have been a few reported cases of rabies due to a bat biting someone in their sleep and their not waking up because the bat’s teeth are so small. After much discussion with the rabies expert at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) in Atlanta, we decided to undergo the series. Rather that than running around wildly, foaming at the mouth, and then dying. Luckily, it’ s much more tolerable (and safer) to get the shots than it used to be – no more needles in the stomach! And my younger daughter lost her fear of needles by the end of the ordeal.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Found this post while searching for rabies information. I have no idea where your 50% mortality rate comes from. (I assume you’re talking about the mortality rate in humans.) Rabies is 100% fatal if untreated; only one (now famous) person has survived without immediate postexposure prophylaxis.

    I think it’s also important to note that many rabid hosts can act lethargic rather than aggressive.

    Citations would improve your content.

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