November 02,2006 | INDIANAPOLIS -- A 10-year-old girl who was diagnosed with Indiana's first confirmed case of rabies in nearly half a century died Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Shannon Carroll had been bitten by a rapid bat in June and had been hospitalized since early October, said Riley Hospital for Children spokeswoman Jo Ann Klooz said.
More than 30 of the girl's relatives, friends and classmates were offered injections to prevent the spread of the disease. Some parents whose children attend the girl's school in Bourbon, 25 miles south of South Bend, worried about possible exposure since rabies can stay dormant for more than a year.
Rabies is a viral disease transmitted to humans and other animals through saliva, usually in a bite. It attacks the brain and nervous system and typically leads to death once symptoms appear. Human-to-human transmission of rabies is possible through direct contact with saliva, health officials said.
State records show Indiana's last human rabies case was in 1959, when a Sullivan County resident died from the disease.
The details on this are a bit sketchy, as journalists are usually not very good on providing the information that's most interesting to health professionals. From what I can gather from earlier news items, though, there was apparently a bat found in the girl's house in June. I can't tell if it was known that she was bitten beforehand, but in many of these cases the people don't know they've been bitten. The species of bats seen most commonly in North America have tiny teeth that generally don't penetrate the skin completely.
From one news report, I was able to gather that the virus was identified as bat strain from molecular testing, which is common practice in human cases these days. So my assumption is that they're piecing together information rather than working from prior knowledge of a bite, particularly since there was about a 4 month gap between the presumptive exposure and the time she was hospitalized with symptoms of the disease with no apparent treatment in the interim.
So my point with all this - and I do actually have one - is that you should never take a bat in the house lightly. Yes, bats are very important from an ecological standpoint and, I think, wondrously beautiful creatures. I've always had a fondness for and fascination with them. Watching them flying around outside in the evening is a great summertime pleasure - not the least because I know they're eating the goddamned mosquitoes. Nonetheless, a bat found in my house would be tested for rabies, period. I'm vaccinated and check my antibody titers annually, so I don't worry about myself, or even my animals, who are all vaccinated. I would never, ever take a chance, though, that might put David's life at risk. I would hope that the rest of you would do the same for yourself and your loved ones.
And now I'll get off my soapbox.