Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rats and Rabies

This just in from the Ukraine (well, ok, it was in April): a cabbie was attacked and bitten by a rat which was later found to have rabies. I didn't believe it at first, because while rat rabies is theoretically possible, it is just extraordinarily unlikely.

So now I stand corrected. For over 25 years I have been reassuring my clients that rats pose NO rabies threat (and in the US they still have not been found to), but this case shows me to have been in error.

I can't find out whether the Ukrainian public health authorities have subtyped the virus to determine in what species it originated, but that would shed a great deal of light on how this amazing event happened. One would ordinarily expect that a rat bitten by any rabid animal would die outright or die of wound infection, and never stand a chance of surviving to develop rabies. Wonders never cease.

I seem to recall years ago hearing about a bird of some sort (raptor or vulture) that contracted rabies. That was also a stunner.

I think I'm gonna go wander off and shake my head for a while.