The case of a woman in Colorado who played Good Samaritan to an animal she was concerned about, only to later be diagnosed with rabies, serves as a reminder that any interaction with wildlife can carry risks for disease that could require immediate treatment. For clinicians, that means remaining vigilant and asking the right questions when patients present with symptoms that may seem to appear without explanation. The Colorado woman was concerned about the welfare of a baby racoon on her property; she took the animal in to care for it. When friends found out, they flocked to her home to ooh and ahh over the cute critter. Now they’re all being treated prophylactically for rabies because the animal tested positive when it was examined by the local health department. Postexposure prophylaxis involves vaccinating patients after they’ve been exposed to rabies; it’s usually very effective, provided it’s administered before symptoms appear, which can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months after exposure. Similar to influenza, the first symptoms include fever, headache, and fatigue. Infected patients may also complain of discomfort, numbness, or pain at the site of a bite. Progressive symptoms can also include insomnia, partial paralysis, hallucinations, and hydrophobia (fear of water).
Patients Trying to Rescue Wildlife May Need Evaluation and Treatment for Disease