Dog Bite

26 Jun

Dog Bite

Last Sunday I descended down the concrete steps fronting  St. Paul’s Methodist Church,  and was starting to walk along Court Street toward my car, when I saw a woman coming toward me with a black dog.  Immediately upon reaching her side, I remarked on the dog’s beauty.  She said it was an Australian sheep dog.  I reached down to pet the long, soft fur and was promptly bitten in the upper thigh.  Right away my leg stung and I leaned down to put my hand on it.  I also said to her that I shouldn’t have petted her dog.  When I looked at my pants, there was no blood, something she also noted.  We exchanged apologetic glances and went on our way.  She probably thought that was the end of it, but all the way to my car I felt a throbbing pain.

As I started the ignition, I began worrying that I had needlessly alarmed the dog owner, while at the same time rubbing my left thigh.  At home I pulled my pants down only to find blood and a sore red spot.  I stayed there for a couple hours, during which time the pain persisted.

Finally, I headed off for Urgent Care, where Dr. Chang confirmed that I had a puncture wound and a nurse called the health department.  The doctor could see four teeth marks and they were bleeding.  I was given a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics.  Dr. Chang was young and exuberant, as some doctors are when they try to tease you into a happier mood.  She bounced from one side of the room to the other and said not to worry, that rabies’ shots weren’t as bad as they used to be.  She said that they cost thousands of dollars and were paid for by the taxpayers.

When I went home, I looked online and found that the State of New York does cover the tab and that rabies’ shots cost anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000.  Treatment involves a series of five shots, the first one going directly into the wound. The woman from Cortland’s Environmental Health Department said the fund that Cortland County dips into is a county fund, but the state makes a contribution.  Their cost is about $1,000 to $2,000 for the health department’s charges, but the patient would never see a bill. She said it was difficult to estimate the total charges because people often start out in the emergency room. In addition, according to her, an emergency room would have many charges, partly because of the staff and the cost of “a dose of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) administered as soon as possible after exposure” (Department of Health–New York).

In “Rabies’ Deaths Higher than Previously Thought,” by Douglas G. McNeil, Jr.,  “Rabies kills 59,000 people a year, or about 160 a day — more than had previously been assumed — according to a study published last week”(April 20, 2015-New York Times).  This figure is the international figure, not the figure for the U.S.  More than 95% of human deaths occur in Asia and Africa (World Health Organization website) and it is dogs that are the primary carriers internationally, not bats like it is in the United States.  For some reason it helps me to have a handle on the statistics.  I feel more in control.  Five percent of 59,000 doesn’t sound too bad.

On the way back home I started to think back to my Uncle Jack’s experience with a rabid cow.  He is the only one I know who had the shots and I remember him saying that it wasn’t as bad as it had been in times past.  He had started renting out his land and working down the road for a neighbor who was also a dairy farmer when he encountered the cow.  I recall him making light of the situation, including the shots.  He wasn’t even sure how much contact he had had with the cow.  However, he wasn’t taking any chances.  But then I thought back to a time when I was visiting and he slid off the garage roof and onto a piece of equipment with a big claw that was turned upside down.  One of the prongs went right into his arm, leaving a huge gash.  He stood up and held the wounded  arm with the other arm, and, most importantly, he didn’t cry.  His son, I think it was Bruce, immediately drove him to the doctor.  In other words, we’re talking about a pretty tough man here and  now that I remembered that incident I was less reassured about the experience of having multiple shots.  People who die of rabies usually die of dehydration, foaming at the mouth.  I could see myself, delirious and spewing saliva.  There was no way I would avoid having the shots if it came to that.

A man from Environmental Health, Tompkins County, with the unlikely name of Adriel, called the next day.  He asked for more details about the incident in a clear, calm voice and said that his first action would be to post the area where the dog bite took place with a description of the owner and the dog.  I conducted two searches on my own and one with my mother, where I talked to the neighbors, and someone named Joe put my name on a Fall Creek listserv.  The next day, Wednesday, June 24, Adriel contacted me, saying that the dog owner had called in in response to a notice and the Health Department would watch him until next Tuesday, June 30, the tenth day after the bite took place.   But it is highly unlikely that the dog will show symptoms of rabies.  I wish all our government agencies could operate so efficiently.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: