Stories tagged rabies


I am not bad! Only confused and hungry!: Think of Angel in season 3 of Buffy! I'm like that!
I am not bad! Only confused and hungry!: Think of Angel in season 3 of Buffy! I'm like that!Courtesy Desmodus
Holy moly!

Vampire bats have been attacking people living in the Amazon rainforest in Peru! And it turns out that the bats have rabies! 500 people have been attacked, and four people have died (all of the fatalities, tragically, have been kids).

The articles I found on the attacks don't make a link between the attacks and the rabies—it seems that some South American populations of vampire bats just have a higher incidence of rabies. (Bats, in general, have a relatively low incidence of the disease; only 0.5% of bats carry the virus.)

It's unusual for vampire bats to attack humans. Typically they will feed on the blood of sleeping animals, but if their prey species become scarce, they will sometimes turn to humans for food. According to the BBC article on the attacks, some experts believe that destruction of the bats habitat, and the ensuing scarcity of prey, have caused them to attack humans, or that the attacks are the result changing temperatures in the Peruvian Amazon in recent years.

In any case, I'd get prepared if I were y'all. Holy water, crosses, wooden stakes, and tennis rackets.


You deserve it Avis: Be careful though—it may be a trophy, but it really fires. Golden bullets.
You deserve it Avis: Be careful though—it may be a trophy, but it really fires. Golden bullets.Courtesy davidaugspurger
Rata a tat tat tat get yourself psyched a tat rat rat rat rat

The award goes to Avis Blakeslee of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania!!

Yay! Yay! Yea!

Now, before we get into Avis’s specific accomplishments, let’s have a little background on the Sara Connor award itself.

A female-only award, meant to recognize the truly hardcore ladies out there, the Sara Connor award is, in fact, a precursor to the Otzi the Iceman Medal of Badassery. The OtIMoB, was created more than a decade after the SCA, under social pressure to acknowledge that men can also, on occasion, be pretty tough. But the Sara Connor is truly the original, and as deserving as the Otzi winners are, the Badassery medal is in a different—and frankly lower—league.

Originally the Sara Connor and Lt. Ellen Ripley Medal of Valor, the award was split after the selection committee could not agree on a recipient. Those members who would eventually form the Lt. Ripley Organization wanted to give the award to Margaret Thatcher, for eating the eyes out of a living goat, while the charter members of the Sara Connor board felt that an Argentinean woman who gave birth while clinging to the wing of an airborne Learjet was more deserving. The board members of the award parted ways amiably, although the Sara Connor Award has since received greater attention and respect, on account of widely held opinion that the Lt. Ripley Organization is simply unable to “keep it real.”

The Sara Connor Award is given regularly, but not necessarily every year. For example, in 1995, the SCA was given to Svetlana Kovach of the Ukraine after she removed her own cystic kidney using only a bottle of grain alcohol and a claw hammer (while trapped in a mineshaft, although this was only discovered after the ceremony—Ms. Kovach was tremendously modest), but in 1996 no suitable recipients were nominated. The award was given once again in 1997, posthumously, to Nozomi Chinen of Okinawa, who clawed her way out of a shark’s belly, and drowned fighting a second shark barehanded.

Avis Blakeslee, this year’s deserving recipient, is being recognized for an epic battle with a rabid fox in the garden of her farmhouse.

Although Ms. Blakeslee’s accomplishment is perhaps not as immediately impressive as those of past recipients (it pales in comparison even to 1999’s formidable runner up, a 15-year old Jordanian who slapped a mortar out of the air), extenuating circumstances must be considered. Again, the fox was rabid—and if you read last week’s post on the bat-pantsed Scotswoman (who is unlikely to receive a nomination), you’ll know that rabies is serious business. Paralysis, insanity, hydrophobia, etc; rabies is no cakewalk. The disease is no doubt what lead the fox to leave its habitat to attack an unsuspecting gardener. Ms. Blakeslee had never even seen a fox in person before, and believed the creature to be a small dog (before it went crazy on her). Another important factor here is Avis’s age: 77. Avis is a grandmother, and not used to fighting wild animals, and yet she wrasseled that pooch into submission, even after sustaining seven leg wounds, an arm wound, and severe blood loss. She then pinned the rabid fox to the ground, holding its jaws shut with one hand, until help arrived to dispatch the creature with a firearm. I have no doubt that, had Mavis a free arm, she would have simply driven a finger into the fox’s brain. As it was, however, she did her two-armed best and subdued the fox ultimate fighting style, until the cavalry came to do its own thing.

A job well done, Avis, a job well done. You’ve taught us all a little bit about what it means to be hardcore, and for that…we salute you.


It was horrible: just horrible.
It was horrible: just horrible.Courtesy Steveie-B
A pipistrelle bat, local to Aberdeen, Scotland, was shocked and disgusted to find the naked leg of a 19-year-old woman thrust into the soft contours of its new cave.

Having just moved from the grim crawlspaces of an Aberdeen flat, in favor of a cozier, denim living space, the two-inch flying mammal assumed that it was set for life.

Shortly after settling in for the day, however, the pipistrelle was bludgeoned into consciousness by the colossal, pale shank of a Scottish receptionist. The invading limb was squeezed through the cloth tube like a kielbasa in the neck of a beer bottle, leaving the bat little choice but to hunker down and wait for the flesh-storm to subside.

Unfortunately, the young receptionist remained maddeningly unaware of the presence of the sorely abused batty for the better part of an hour. It was not until her mother was driving her to work that the nerve signals from her monstrous appendage apparently completed the arduous journey to her brain. The screaming and thrashing that followed was no doubt tortuous for the small creature’s delicate bones and hyper-sensitive ears. One can only imagine how painful the experience must have been to the tiny merkel cells lining the bat’s wings, as the delicate, single-haired structures were meant only to sense subtle changes in air flow, not to endure the scraping of Scotch legs.

The bat was shortly evicted from its new home, and placed into a holding cell, where it was given the humiliating nickname “Rat-bat.”

“My name,” the pipistrelle was quoted, “is Henry Fitzroy-Lennox, and I want to go home.”

Lamentably healthy, the bad wondered how things might have been different, had it been a carrier of rabies. The virus, present in the nerves and saliva, could have been easily passed to the receptionist through one quick bite (or, less likely, but intriguingly possible, via an aerosol through the mucus membranes). The infection would have necessitated an injection of immunoglobulin near the infection site, and another intramuscularly away from the site, followed by several shot of vaccine.

If the receptionist had neglected to seek proper treatment for the Henry’s well-deserved revenge, she could have looked forward to the rapid passage of the virus along her nerves, through her central nervous system, to the ultimate destination of her brain, where it soon would have caused encephalitis—painful and deadly inflammation of the brain.

There’s some small chance that a drug induced coma could have saved her brain from further damage at this point, but very likely the damage would have been done, and irreversible symptoms would soon begin to appear. Initially symptoms would be flu-like, but before long the woman would have suffered from insomnia, confusion, agitation, partial paralysis, paranoia, terror, and severe hallucinations. The receptionist would have become distinctly drippy, as her body would produce excessive amounts of tears and saliva. Her slight paralysis would have prevented her from swallowing, causing the characteristic “foaming at the mouth” of rabies. She may have developed hydrophobia—a fear of water—because the excess fluid in her mouth and inability to swallow could bring her to a panic when presented with liquids to drink (indeed, “hydrophobia” was once synonymous with rabies, so characteristic was the symptom).

Approximately one week after developing symptoms, the receptionist would have died.

So, all in all, it seems that she really dodged a bullet after throwing herself in front of a gun.

Mr. Fitzroy-Lennox was released into the wild (of Aberdeen) at the end of the lucky and inconsiderate woman’s shift. He will never again put himself into a position where a receptionist could abuse him so awfully.

More from Science Buzz on bats and rabies.

More on receptionists.

More on Aberdeen.


Bat concerns: The death of a Minnesota man from rabies this fall raises new concerns over the interactions between humans and bats.
Bat concerns: The death of a Minnesota man from rabies this fall raises new concerns over the interactions between humans and bats.Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
It was a Minnesota headline this week that made the nation-wide news…and just in time for Halloween.

A Minnesota man died last week from rabies after being bitten by a bat. It’s led to a lot of discussions about bats, rabies and how they all impact us. Last night during a training session here at the museum, the museum’s resident biologist made a sideline discussion on the topic, pointing out that many more bats than we’d ever imagine have rabies and that the only bats that are studied concerning rabies are those that have encounters with humans.

So let’s set the record straight on bats, rabies and how concerned we need to be on these issues. Here’s information direct from the Center for Disease Control.

In Minnesota, the most common animals to be carrying rabies are bats, skunks and fox. But rabies can be carried by a variety of mammals, including raccoons, coyotes and even dogs. Rabies is a viral disease that impacts our body’s central nervous system. Tens of thousands of people each year are treated for the condition, and usually a few die, primarily for not seeking treatment immediately after having been bitten by a rabid animal.

Now to the bat question. Some common misconceptions about bats: they’re blind, they want to suck your blood and they eat lots of mosquitoes. Bats do have low vision and use a radar-like system to sense objects, but they also can see. Bats are predators, but they prefer insects. But not insects as small as mosquitoes. They prefer bigger bugs like beetles. Think about, there’s not too much meat to munch on from a mosquito.

How do you know if a bat has rabies? The only way to find out is to have it tested in a laboratory. There are some clues that can help you be wary of a rabid bat: if it’s flying during the day, is found in an area you normally don’t find bats (including inside buildings) or is unable to fly. If it’s easy to approach, and therefore handle, there’s a stronger possibility that the bat is rabid.

What do you do if you’re bitten by a bat? After screaming and cursing you should wash the affected area immediately and get prompt medical attention. Bats do have extremely small teeth that may not leave a mark. It’s still best to have the area checked out by medical personnel even if it looks like your skin has not been punctured.

Some other misconceptions: people can’t get rabies from bat guano (feces), blood or urine. And you can’t get rabies from simply touching a bat.


Have you ever wondered why medicine seems to be so ineffective in dealing with many neurological diseases? We have treatments and drugs to combat disorders throughout the rest of the body, but diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s remain difficult to treat.

A team of scientists recently created a drug that can cross the blood-brain barrier to treat neurological diseases in mice. Capillary walls in the brain are very effective at controlling which molecules can pass into the spaces between neurons. This protects the brain from potentially harmful chemicals in the blood. Until now, this also prevented much needed medicines from penetrating into an affected brain!

But, wait. If the brain is so great at preventing molecules from penetrating capillary walls, how do diseases get through? Some viruses, such as rabies, are able to trick the barrier into letting them through. Researches attached one of these trickster molecules from rabies onto a drug, and found that the drug was delivered through the capillary wall and into the brain.

In this study, scientists infected mice with Japanese encephalitis. Medicine delivered using the new method kept 80 percent of diseased mice alive for 30 days, while all of the untreated mice died.

While researchers tested this technique only on mice, soon this could provide huge benefits to humans. The drug used to combat encephalitis in mice uses a kind of RNA, short-interfering RNAs (siRNAs), that block the activity of a gene. This type of RNA can be custom tailored to target almost any disease-causing gene or protein. Combined with the molecules that can break through the blood-brain barrier, scientists could more effectively treat Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and many more neurological diseases.