Biting Back: Let’s NOT get Rabies please!

 Ashley here. Let me tell you a few things about rabies.

Rabies is a Lyssavirus that is carried in saliva of an infected animal. We often think of rabies coming from dog bites, however less than five percent of Rabies cases in developed countries (like Canada) come from dogs. This is because we vaccinate the majority of domestic canines against rabies. In developing countries, dogs remain the LARGEST reservoir for the rabies virus.

a monkey jumps on a canadian girl's back in Gambia

Ashley + random monkey. We want to avoid this

You are at highest risk of contracting rabies if you are bitten by an infected animal.  But, you could potentially contract the virus from animal scratches and licks and rarely if the virus is somehow aerosolized and you inhale it.

Once the virus is in your system, it will travel through your nerves to your brain and spinal cord. Once symptoms occur (20-90 days or longer), the disease course is set. Symptoms include, mild fever, agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion/delirium, seizures, difficulty swallowing, drooling, excessive salivation, numbness/tingling sensations until the individual  becomes comatose (within ten days of symptom onset) then stops breathing and dies. Therefore getting rabies… not so good.

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Luckily, in 1885 Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux developed a vaccination for rabies. Unluckily, it’s still an expensive vaccine to purchase. If you are bitten by an animal suspected to be infected with rabies, then a post exposure prophylaxis course of the vaccine can be given within two days of the bite. Pretty important since untreated rabies has a 100% mortality rate. Just sayin’.

a stray dog in The Gambia

A stray dog who wanted to join our Gambian beach party in 2007

This July, as Erin runs across The Gambia, she will likely meet many stray dogs. And other wildlife like monkeys. Now, being that we may be quite far from any health care centres, it is best that Erin does not contract rabies. So we have decided that Erin and I should get the vaccine before we leave so if any bites, scratches or licks occur, we can feel more confident that we won’t DIE within the next year.

The problem is the cost. The rabies vaccine (pre-exposure vaccine course) costs over $700 per person. Luckily when I emailed Novartis Pharmaceuticals and told them about Love4Gambia they promptly agreed to donate two courses of pre-exposure prophylaxis vaccines for Erin and I. YAY!

So a HUGE thank you goes out to Greig Estabrooks with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Inc Canada’s Vaccines and Diagnostics division for their support for Love4Gambia!

* Information regarding the rabies virus was taken from Medscape Reference Guide, from WebMD.

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1 Response to Biting Back: Let’s NOT get Rabies please!

  1. Ben Orbach says:

    Erin, I just read about you on the America’s Unofficial Ambassadors blog, what an amazing effort! Thank you for raising awareness for the value and impact of service. We are so pleased to support you! Good luck –


    Ben Orbach
    America’s Unofficial Ambassadors

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