April 3, 2010

Midnight links: rabies/vaccines/titers

Austin - stream of bats at sundown. Photo by Wordyeti on Flickr. "A single little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour, while a pregnant or lactating female bat typically eats the equivalent of her entire body weight in insects each night." [Source: Bat Conservation International.]

It all started when the most excellent Julie Zickefoose rescued a young bat. And then another bat. Julie has forgotten more about nature and about wildlife than most of us will ever know, and she took all the standard precautions and figured the rabies risk was smaller than negligible.

Then things got complicated. There are bat strains of rabies as well as canine strains, and scientists don't know much about the bat strains. "Certainly these kinds of viruses, under the right conditions, can establish very persistent latent infections. I personally don't agree that we know that an asymptomatic bat cannot transmit the disease."

Good news: the bat turned out not to be rabid. Sad news: in order to test the bat for rabies the little creature had to be killed. Super-helpful news: Julie was thoughtful enough to share all kinds of bat and rabies information with her readers. A good thing, since I'd like to sign up for this.

Vaccines are a special area of interest and concern for dog people, and on Thursday Pet Connection's Kim Campbell Thornton reported on the latest vaccine news from the Rabies Challenge fundraiser in San Diego.

In light of which, I'll quote Julie Z:
The deal with the [rabies pre-exposure] shots is you get your titer checked every two years (about $40), and if the rabies antibodies are still high, you're OK. One woman I know says hers has held for 15 years and counting.

15 years! Nice to know, if you're interested in safely extending the required interval for canine rabies boosters [and I am]. Thanks to Julie for the great blog posts, and may her pre-exposure vaccinations not hurt a bit.

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