Tragic rabies death in China

A 41-year-old Chinese man died from a rabies infection that he picked up in an attempt to save his son from the disease. The boy was bitten by a rabid dog. The father sucked blood out of the wound in hopes it would remove any poison. The family ended up taking the boy in for shots, anyway, but the father turned them down, largely because of the cost. Read the rest

How to: Survive rabies without really trying

This is an awkward sort of "How To" post because nobody really knows the answer. Here's the rather bleak reality: Rabies is not, typically, something you live through. If you think you've been exposed, you can get a life-saving vaccine. But, if you miss that window, and symptoms start to appear, your chances of survival are pretty much nil.

There are exceptions. We've talked before here about the Milwaukee Protocol, a medical intervention that some doctors think has allowed a handful of people to escape death. But the Milwaukee Protocol is not a simple thing. It involves hospitalization, as doctors put the affected person into a coma. Basically, they reboot the system. And it might not be as effective as we think it is. Five people have gotten the Milwaukee Protocol and survived. Thirty-two others received the treatment and still died. There's a lot of effort that goes into the Milwaukee Protocol, and it might be wasted effort.

Then there's this: In 2009, a teenage runaway walked into a Texas hospital, exhibiting symptoms of rabies—a diagnosis that was later confirmed. She didn't get vaccinated before symptoms started. She never got the Milwaukee Protocol. Instead, she recovered on her own and left the hospital hale and healthy three weeks later.

That's not supposed to happen in humans.

The Austin American-Statesman has a fascinating story about this case. At the heart is a big mystery. The young woman cut off contact with hospital researchers shortly after she was discharged from the hospital. Read the rest