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I Got a Rabies Scare
A rabid dog can transmit rabies virus
Was the puppy that had bitten me and died rabid?
On December 24.1984, I was accidentally scratched by the teeth of a puppy. The scratch went a little deep as to cause bleeding.
That was before breakfast. I used to drink coffee, dip into the brew a bread locally called “pandesal.” I had not finished eating it yet when I went out to our front yard. Our pet puppy came greeting me, wagging its tail. I must have hung my hand on my side holding the bread. Suddenly I felt pain on my fingers. I saw the puppy with the bread on its mouth. I looked into my fingers to inspect the cause of my pain. I saw some blood oozing. It was not hard to conclude that the puppy bit the bread I was holding and also bit my fingers accidentally.
I washed my wounds with water and soap and applied antiseptic. Then I dressed it.
Died of rabies?
The following morning, December 25, we found the puppy dead. My mind whirled.
I had heard it before that a puppy is most likely to have rabies. A dog with rabies that had bitten a human being would die.
The puppy that died had bitten me. Does its death show that it had rabies?
Another thought followed. Sometimes, some people die suddenly and unexpectedly during especial occasions. Today is Christmas day; a special occasion. I knew i was having negative thoughts.
Anyway, it is said that Christ was not actually born on December 25 but some four days earlier. So there is no special occasion today, I told myself.
The record of Christ’s birthday might have been wrong but what does the death of this puppy mean? I was arguing with myself.
I decided to make sure of one thing: that the puppy did not have rabies virus.
I hesitated to have anti-rabies injection that comprised of 30 shots (That’s what I knew at that time). I certainly dreaded the pain from the needle; besides some good amount of money was needed.
No intimate expert could give me pieces of advice. My veterinarian friend was in the United States taking up a master’s degree at the Michigan State University. I am an agriculturist; my wife is a forester. We both lacked medical expertise.
I cut off the head of the puppy and put it in a plastic bag then wrapped it with old newspapers. I called my nephew, Roger. I asked him to accompany me to the College of Veterinary Medicine (VetMed), University of the Philippines, Diliman campus located some 60 kilometers away. I was sure somebody in the College could examine the brain of the puppy for Negri bodies (named after Dr. Adelchi Negri). Their presence would constitute an evidence that the puppy had rabies virus.
At the VetMed, we were met by a security guard. He said no technical people were around at the VetMed that day because it was official holiday, being Christmas day.
I did not have any acquaintance working at VetMed whom I could ask for a favor to attend to the head of the puppy. At lunch Roger and I plotted a strategy to have the puppy head examined. I had not yet settled within my mind to go for 30 anti-rabies shots. My doubt as to whether the puppy had rabies or not intensified.
I had heard it earlier that rabies virus work in intervals of 7 to show symptoms or their fatal effect: 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months, 7 years.
Roger and I scoured the Aurora avenue in Sta. Mesa, Manila looking for a veterinary clinic. We found one. However, the veterinarian told us that the result of the autopsy of the puppy’s brain would be available in the second week of January. That was a good 19 days past the day I was bitten by the puppy. No choice but to leave the puppy head for autopsy. I had to think of another way to avoid going for 30 anti-rabies shots and still stay clear of fatal effects of rabies in case the puppy was rabid.
In the Philippines, December 25 up to January 6, day of epiphany, were holidays. Few doctors would go to their clinics, or they were having vacations. So I was not enjoying these holidays as I was a government employee. I was at the height of doubts that the puppy was rabid.
On December 28 - well within the first 7 days - I went to see Dr. Rowena Pua for some medical pieces of advice. She is a pediatrician who was attending to our only child at that time. Lucky me, she had a stock of two capsules of a human-based anti-rabies vaccine. One capsule would serve as a preventive measure. Two capsules would treat me completely of rabies. The capsules were expensive. But the cost did not matter now.
I decided to take one capsule. If the puppy proved rabid, I would take the second capsule.
On January 14,1985 I went back to the veterinary clinic in Sta. Mesa, Manila. The result of the autopsy on the puppy’s brain was negative. That is, the puppy was not rabid! The one capsule of vaccine I had taken now serves to protect me from rabies in the future.