Follow These Rabies Rules for Safety
The treatment is easy -- and relatively painless. "It's a series of
seven injections over a month's time," says Mille Vitale, RN, rabies nurse
for Pinellas County, Fla. "You will have five visits to the doctor, on days
zero, three, seven, 14, and 28 -- and that schedule has to be kept. You will be
getting the vaccinations in the upper arm, on alternate arms."
"Most people still think you get them in the stomach -- and you
absolutely don't," says Slote. But you can get the RIG injected in unusual
places -- depending on where the bites are. "Nina had three places where
the fox bit or scratched her and she had to have some RIG injected into each of
The HDCV/RIG regimen is a huge advance from what might be called the Dark
Ages of rabies treatment, Vitale says, when the vaccinations were so numerous
they had to be given in places such as the abdomen -- and even then, didn't
"It's much easier to treat patients and much easier to recommend
treatment," says Alfred DeMaria, MD, director of communicable disease
control at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. "Now the risk of
treatment is virtually nil."
Which is not to suggest anyone who comes in contact with a rabid animal
necessarily needs treatment. It really depends on how "contact" is
defined. Public health experts say the greatest danger lies in getting the
saliva of a rabid animal, or its brain or nervous system tissue, into an open
cut. That could happen through a bite, of course, or indirectly.
That was the case with Roland Vaillancourt, a paramedic from Greenville,
N.H. One day eight years ago he noticed an odd sight: a raccoon wandering
around a neighborhood in daylight. "So something was wrong," he says.
"It was acting very unusual -- slow [breathing], unsteady gait. We just
decided to put it down at that point."
He used a bow and arrow, and accidentally cut himself on the arrowhead,
which was tainted with the raccoon's nervous system tissue. But Vaillancourt
underwent PEP and didn't have any problem.