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Posts tagged “bats”

Shots in the Dark: The aftermath of Bruce's defenestration

A couple days after our encounter with Bruce, Beth noticed two little marks — seemingly a bite — on her hand. We were in Wisconsin, visiting Vargo, Lauren, Benton, and Leo and attending Pat and Brittany’s (beautiful) wedding. After landing at SFO Sunday night, we took BART home, packed up a little bag, and went to the emergency room at Alta Bates around 11:30 pm.

Rabies is a pretty scary disease. Left untreated, it almost inevitably leads to death. There are very few survivors post-exposure (A google search yielded four. Ever. Anywhere.). Onset of the disease occurs, on average, one to three months after exposure. The initial symptoms are flu-like: fever, tingling, aches. As the virus spreads, two contrasting forms of disease can manifest — ‘furious’ and ‘paralytic’ rabies. In furious rabies, people exhibit hyperactivity, biting-behavior (sometimes), and fear of water. Paralytic rabies leads to gradual, systemic paralysis.

Why all this gloomy talk of rabies? In the US, bats are the source of most human rabies cases.

We learned at Alta Bates that any contact with a bat should be considered a potential rabies exposure unless it can be proven otherwise. Acquitting the bat is no simple task. It involves capturing the bat, bringing it to a local hospital or animal control location, euthanizing it, and confirming via laboratory assay whether the bat was indeed rabid. I can’t speak for others, but my first thought wasn’t to grab some tupperware and snag the lil’bugger. Far from it.

Barring capture (or acquittal within 48 hours), rabies postexposure prophylaxis (RPEP) is recommended. The regimen varies depending on immunization status. If you’re previously immunized, you get two 1 mL shots of rabies vaccine intramuscularly. One on day 0 — the day of the exposure / the day you report to the hospital — and one at day 3. Beth was immunized; this was her RPEP.

I wasn’t immunized, and I paid for it. Non-immunized individuals must receive human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) at a dose of 20 IU / kg bodyweight, and a 1 mL dose of the vaccine on days 0, 3, 7, and 14. HRIG (basically) provides antibodies to protect against rabies during the period in which the vaccine isn’t yet effective. I received 8 mL of HRIG in three locations - 4 mL in my right arm and 2 of the remaining 4 mL in each of my butt cheeks. The vaccine was given to me in my left arm.

No doubt this is a vast improvement from the old method (you know, the one we grew up hearing about) of ~15 shots in the abdomen (this stopped being common practice in the late 70s). It’s still no walk in the park. The shots themselves, while uncomfortable, were not all that painful (save the 4 mL one). The 1 mL vaccination is painless. But vaccines are vaccines and immune responses are immune responses. I’ve felt far from great this week.

Some lessons and recommendations:

  • Window screens are a good and useful thing.

  • Don’t mess with bats. If there’s one in your home, you are exposed to rabies. There’s not necessarily a need to go to the ER, but you need to see a doctor the same day or the next day.

  • If you have reason to get it (for instance, international travel), the pre-exposure rabies vaccination is worth the cost.

Tolkien’s Boromir summed it up nicely: “Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing.”

The Defenestration of Bruce

As best as I can tell, Bruce broke into our apartment well after midnight Wednesday morning.

I should clarify. Bruce is a bat. A small bat. He is of the night, of the outdoors. He broached the boundary between inside and outside through a barely open window.

I turned in around 1:00a after a night of writing; Beth had been asleep for hours. The blinds were closed and the windows were open - a normal night for us in California. I imagine that Bruce flew in, collided with the shutters, and, little claws flailing, grabbed ahold. After catching his breath, he began to explore, to poke around his new environs.

I woke up to that: the rambunctious and clattering aftermath of Bruce’s entrance. He made his way over to the other open window, which had a screen in place. It is unclear whether he perceived this as a way out or was just seeking a cool breeze on his furry belly and wings. Regardless, this is where I found Bruce.

In the gauzy moments before adrenaline kicked in, my mind cycled through possible origins of the racket: “Moth. Rat. Bird.” It wouldn’t be the first time a winged intruder entered our home. A few years ago, a small sparrow got caught in the blinds, creating a lot more ruckus and pooping all over the place before leaving our home / exiting his toilet.

I woke Beth up, had her turn the lights on (and, in doing so, moved her away from the blinds), and took a look. My glasses were off, so all I could make out was a small black blob, the size of a small child’s fist. My first thought was large spider. But then, the blob moved in mysterious ways. Furry, winged ways.

“Bat,” I said, still half asleep.

“Bat? buhbuhBAT! BAT! BATBATBATbatbatbatbatbat!”, Beth shrieked, her voice a fading echo as she fled the room and shut the door.

I grabbed my glasses and took a closer look. Bruce came into focus, a wee bat, moving a bit and holding tightly to the aforementioned screen. A screen installed to keep pests out… and decidedly keeping Bruce in.

Beth peeked her head in and suggested we leave the room, close the door, and call maintenance. She was now fully clothed in multiple layers, scarves wrapped around her neck, head, and face. Bite protection.

I was keen on a more proactive approach and assumed we could knock the screen out the window, rid the apartment of Bruce, and not kill him. A late night defenestration.

After a few minutes of vacillating between amusement and sheer terror, I got a broom, aimed for the corner of the window shade…. and missed, putting a big hole in the screen. Bruce bobbled around a bit, spreading one wing, but not taking flight. He slowly slinked his way to the opposite corner of the screen. His wings were taut and leathery, his ears tiny, his demeanor fearless and frightening.

I slowly inserted the broom in the hole I made and decreased the width of the screen an inch. I then knocked it - and Bruce - out the window.

We heard the screen hit the ground an eternity later, closed all the windows, and took showers. We escaped unscathed… or so we thought.