Science

Bat Crazy – Why a Bat Encounter Might Equal a Round of Rabies Shots

February 20, 2017
ER Princess

My sister recently left her husband a note that said, “A snail only has one foot – what is your excuse?!”

I laughed more than I would like to admit when she told me that. She was being cheeky. But, she has a point. Generally speaking, men do not move as quickly as women. They are the hunters, who focus sometimes to a fault on one single, solitary, lone goal.  They closely follow the grocery store list.  Women do not.  Women linger in the dollar section at Target.  Men go straight for the bread and milk.

Women are gatherers.  They can gather valentines day placemats, bread and milk. Women can typically focus on multiple areas at any given time. For example: women shop at the grocery store, while talking on the phone and wrangling their children (who have been known to hang freely from the scales in the produce section), plan dinner and also solve a problem using the quadratic formula all at the same time.

Men operate in boxes. Everything is in a compartment. There is not more than one thing in each box. Multi-tasking can slow our wonderful men down. And that is okay because we all have our strengths. And weaknesses.

I recall sitting, nursing two babies and asking my loving husband for some favor. Tethered to two babies, if you will, I was at his mercy. Couch-bound. I was thankful he was there to help, but I believe there was some urgency to the request and naturally he was not moving at the speed I expected. In my post-partum drawl, I quipped haughtily through a sigh, “Are you part snail?” I laughed inside pretty hard. I think he looked at me with a tinge of hatred in his eyes iced with a little adoration. When I later told my sister, who wrote the note about the snail, she laughed too. We spoke of hunting and gathering.

Hey, if you cannot laugh then you will cry.

A year or so later, I took a fantastic picture of a snail in the driveway and showed it to my husband laughing through tears about how I took a great picture of him. When I showed him the photo he rolled his eyes and said, “I don’t like you.” He does like me.

I asked him if he could help me find the photo for this post. He said, “I don’t like you.” Cheeky is in my genes.

He showed me where the iCloud photo steam was. Relationships work when you can be cheeky with your partner. At least that is what I think.  Here is the photo.  Yes that is our airstream Christmas blow-up in the background.

Snail - Bat

If things take a turn for the worse I will stray from my Monday and Thursday blog posting schedule and alert you followers so you can curb any sarcasm you are tossing around to your loved one so as to avoid being served divorce papers. Until then.

One early morning around 5 a.m. my sister heard a strange fluttering and zipping noise in the bedroom. It awakened her from her slumber. She nudged her husband and he claimed it was nothing.  Just the zipper on the sleeping bag (the comforter was in the wash). Trusting him, she fell back to sleep. Awakened this time by her youngest child she went and fetched the child and brought her into bed with them. Her husband, because even though he can only monotask is still a good egg, retreated to the kitchen to brew the coffee and get things going for the day. As she lay there she heard the noise again and this time leapt from her bed and turned on the light. What do you suppose she saw?!

A bat perched in her room.

Do you know what happens when a bat is in your house while you are sleeping? Do you know what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says you must do?!

In late August of last year we went hunting for puff ball mushrooms with sticks in the yard. I was also walking our blind dog at the time. As I took her inside, my eldest yelled something to this effect, “Mommy! I poked this thing and now things are squirming out of it!” My daughter took the stick from him because it was ‘hers’ and went flitting about the yard with it in her hands.

The thing was a bat. The squirming things were maggots.

Expired Bat

I thought nothing of it for about 20 minutes until my OSHA, paranoid-self kicked in and I thought: Bat. Rabies. Rabies. Bat. So, I called animal control. Animal control came.  They looked at the bat and concluded it was too dry to test for rabies. The maggots were still squiriming around in the spot where it lay. They told me there was no way to say one way or the other if my daughter who touched the stick that touched the bat was at risk of being infected. The bat had died peacefully in the shade, so the sunshine was not at work to rid its carcass of any terrible illness that may have caused it to leave this world.  I was unsure.

I called the pediatrician. I called the veterinarian. I asked Dr. Google.  The pediatrician said go immediately to the ER. I went to the satellite ER at 7 p.m. with three children. They looked at me in my non-emergency situation, as my children elected to drown themselves in hand sanitizer, and said …we will ask the doctor. We are busy and you will be waiting a long time. The nurse emerged post-doctor conversation and said, “If a bat is in your house you need to be seen.” I said with relief, “Oh, well we are fine then!” She said firmly, “No. I did not say that. I said: if a bat is in your house you must be seen.” She told me it would be up to me. What?! I am no expert in decomposing bat 101!

We went home.

The next day I wanted closure. I called the pediatrician. She said, “You must return to the ER.” There was some discussion about rabies and the devastation it causes that cannot be stopped. I loaded up the car and drove this time into the big city. Me + three children – destination: children’s hospital. My daughter insisted on wearing this:

Hospital Popsicle - Bat

The doctors treated her like a queen. Ultimately, after everyone had popsicles, they concluded she was fine. They even called the state veterinarian. The ER doctor was also a toxicologist. Despite this, I was not free from being concerned until we were well-past two months from the incident, as rabies can take that long to rear its ugly head.

So, not long ago, my sister texts me, “What rhymes with rat but is not a house hold pet?” I knew it was a bat. I exclaim over text, “DO YOU HAVE A BAT IN YOUR HOUSE?!” I did not wait for her to respond. I called her.

Guess what? She and her four children and her husband all had to have rabies shots. Yeah. It is just a zipper. Not a bat. Um. Right.

Here is the thing: If you have a bat in your house and people are sleeping, you have no way of knowing if the bat bit anyone or not.  You cannot feel their little teeth. You cannot see the bite mark. You must have someone (preferably a professional) catch the bat and have it tested.

My brother-in-law coaxed the bat to the door and released the bat into the skies of Northern Virginia. Before I knew this I talked over my sister, “Where is the bat?!  Where is the bat?!”

If a bat is in your house and people are sleeping, you must be seen by a physician. And, guess what? The CDC says you must get rabies shots. I get it – shots sound terrible, but rabies is much, much, much worse. Beyond imagination of the worst thing. There is no cure. You die.  I do not want to give a lesson in rabies, but I do want to talk about viruses in our over-anti-biotic prescribed landscape.

Whenever one of my children has some ailment there is an element of relief if they are diagnosed with strep throat because after 24 hours of antibiotics they are completely on the mend.  Strep is a bacterial infection.  Viruses are a different story.  They cannot be treated with antibiotics.  Thankfully, in our modern world, we have vaccines which protect us against viruses such as polio, smallpox, mumps, measles, chickenpox and rubella to name a few.  If you contract one of these viral infections, there is no medicine to cure it.  Personally, I am always on the fence with whether to vaccinate my children for influenza, but the others I do not question and I am proud to say they are up-to-date on their vaccinations.  I know this is a constant debate out there, but I err on the vaccine side of things.

What are the differences between bacteria and viruses?

A bacterium (singular), or bacteria (plural) as we commonly refer to them, are single-celled mirco-organisms that can live in many environments – even radioactive ones.   They have a rigid wall and a thin rubbery membrane surrounding the fluid inside the cell.  They can reproduce on their own and some fossil records provide proof they have existed for about 3.5 billion years.  Some live in extremes of cold or heat.  Some live inside of our body and perform useful tasks, such as aiding the digestion of food.  Most bacteria do not cause harm to people (fewer than 1% cause diseases in people).  They do not require a host to live.  They are responsible for ailments like strep throat and urinary tract infections.

A virus is different than bacteria in many ways.  First and foremost, they require a host to live. A virus is even smaller than bacteria and when it enters your body it invades some of your cells and takes over causing the cell to produce the virus until the cells burst and die.  Unlike bacteria, most viruses do cause disease and are specific about the cells they attack.  Certain viruses attack cells in the liver, respiratory system or blood. I referenced some examples of viruses for which we are fortunate to have vaccines.  Two more examples:  the common cold and rabies.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold.  Thankfully for many, including my sister and her family, there is a vaccine for rabies.

My public service announcement:  if you have had a potential exposure to rabies – get the vaccine.  Do not let anti-vaccine propaganda get in your head.  Get over that and get over the number of shots. Look, I personally know two adults and four children aged 10 and under who breezed through and survived the shots.

I will get off of my rabies shots soap box and leave you for now on this journey of trying to know a little more today than you knew yesterday!  And, when the doctor tells you your child’s ailment is a virus – do not beg for an antibiotic.  An antibiotic will do nothing.

Journey on!

the mamabrain at mamabrains

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