What is Rabies and How Does it Work

It all started as an innocent trip to church, one of countless before. Of all places, what could go wrong at church? After all,this is a place of happiness and devotion, long past the age where the average person had anything at all to worry about.

Jeanna happened to spot a poor, trapped bat.Being an animal lover and more than willing to help, she lifted the unfortunate creature outside to freedom. It hurt when the fangs sunk in to her left index finger, but it was just an innocent animal bite, right? Even though all she wanted to do was help, the tiny creature, in its terror at the giant above it,didn’t understand what was going on at all.

The young girl barely registered the tiny wound,having no idea of the deadly, near 100% fatal virus that now coursed through her bloodstream. Days turned into weeks and Jeanna didn’t seek any kind of treatment or bother to see a doctor; she had no idea anything was wrong. About a month later, the standard incubation period for the virus, Jeanna began to feel off, constantly tired and confused.

The Treatment

For several days, an entire team of physicians raced to figure out how to treat this deadly virus they didn’t fully understand and had very little experience with. You see, before Jeanna, no one that didn’t seek immediate treatment or wasn’t previously vaccinated had ever survived Rabies.

In an attempt to slow the spread of the infection and minimize damage,  doctors placed Jeanna in a medically induced coma- something only done in the most emergent of circumstances. Six days Jeanna spent in this coma, the Rabies virus continuing to damage her nervous system all the while.

What Exactly Is Rabies

Rabies is a very dangerous virus, still considered 100% fatal without vaccination or immediate treatment. Once the virus reaches the brain, it first causes inflammation; infected animals begin to show the first signs. Usually within 3-5 days after, the virus has done so much extensive, irreparable damage, the results are obvious to anyone.

Within seven days of becoming sick, the infected animal usually dies (Centers for Disease Control).

The Rabies virus travels through the spinal cord to the brain.

A Rabies vaccination is legally required for all dogs throughout America, and most cats (depending on the state you live in). If an animal is suspected of being infected, it is immediately euthanized- so dangerous is this virus. Once symptoms become clear, the treatment is poor and nothing is guaranteed, even for humans (as medically advanced as we are in 2018).

Though Rabies isn’t a very big concern in America, isolated cases can still be found occasionally in some southern areas.Rabies has all but been eliminated completely from Australia, but it is still an enormous problem in countries like India, where the health care is very poor and population of stray animals extremely high.

While a miniscule 23 human rabies cases have been reported in the US within the past 10 years, India reports 25- 30,000 human Rabies deaths annually (US National Library of Medicine).

Jeanna Today

Fourteen years later, Jeanna is a mother and a college graduate. Though she did survive, thanks to the tireless efforts of her physicians back in 2004 and after extensive physical therapy, she has never will fully recover. Jeanna made medical history back then as the first unvaccinated Rabies survivor.

After Jeanna was finally brought out of the coma six days in, she could barely talk and wouldn’t walk at all. She spent the next two months recovering at the hospital, and countless more undergoing physical therapy.Though she couldn’t return to school just yet, the previous athlete was home schooled in order to catch up with her classmates and return the following year.


Now that you understand a little more about what Rabies is and what it can do, it becomes clear how important the vaccinations are for every single pet out there! Though Rabies is most often associated with dogs, it is perhaps more important to vaccinate your cat, a nocturnal hunter more likely to try and catch/kill a Rabies infected bat (also nocturnal).

Bats are the largest carrier of Rabies in the US.