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Backpacker Magazine – August 2008

Survive This: Bitten by a (Rabid?) Animal

Chomped by a critter? Here's what to do.

by: Lora Shinn

(Illustration by Christina Ung)
(Illustration by Christina Ung)

Predicament: You're crawling into your tent when your hand brushes something small and furry. You recoil–but not before a bat bites your finger. Blood seeps from the wound as you wonder, "Was it rabid?"

Lifeline: First, stop the bleeding by applying pressure with a clean cloth, then begin cleansing. Immediate, vigorous washing can prevent the transmission of the rabies virus. Irrigate the bite with a high-pressure jet of clean water from a syringe or hydration bladder, then clean it with soap and water. Also apply antiseptic wipes soaked with benzalkonium chloride, alcohol, or povidone iodine, which minimize risk of transmission. Do not close the wound; keep it loosely covered and clean it daily to prevent general infections.

If you can kill the animal, do so. Otherwise, record the species, behavior, appearance, and location. Rabies is a rare but deadly disease (three Americans died from it in 2006), so immediately hike out to seek medical treatment. Vaccinations are most effective when started within 24 to 36 hours of infection. Once symptoms appear, which takes between a week and several months depending on the proximity of the bite to the brain, it's too late.

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Dec 04, 2013

you have been having some pretty timely articles brought to our attention lately ... thank you for the education !!

Feb 26, 2012

I just had to go through the rabies series and it was horrible. I had every side effect of the series full blown, it's way better than death though....and in revenge I can wrestle down any rabid animal I bant for two years and only need a booster shot!

Louise Langlais
Dec 04, 2011

I'm a veterinarian who practices in Cambridge Ontario. We witnessed a case of rabies in one of our canine patients several years ago (the dog died, of course, very sad). I've reviewed this wiki article and it's pretty accurate:

Please don't take any chances when faced with rabies! Get post-exposure treatment immediately if bitten by an animal. And, please vaccinate your pets, even the "indoor" ones.

May 27, 2011

@Erin, having taken multiple first aid, emergency preparedness, etc. course, the recommendation is always to clean the wound. I am curious what the sources for your method are?

May 27, 2011

The symptoms are death. But it starts with fever and quickly you are in a coma. Please wash the wound first. Soap and water wash for 5 mins should kill the virus. But always get post exposure vaccinations. I've had the post exposure vaccines - there not too bad.

May 24, 2011

Clean the bite. Stop the Bleeding. Forget first step if major. If animal is killed in scuffle bring it. (Might save you from a series if PROVEN to be no rabid) If animal is not dead procede to next step. Get off the trail and to the hospital for treatment as soon as possible by any means neccessary (Walk or Rescue). Forget about species and all that crap. If you can't prove the bite is not rabid they'll give you the Vaccination series regardless. Then wait and pray.

Aug 30, 2010

I respectfully choose to disagree with the first step. If you get any sort of puncture wound, particularly an animal bite, you should allow blood to flow freely to "clean" out the wound.

Apr 13, 2010

I would like to know in the article what are the symptoms???

Oct 02, 2008

Thanks for the tip!


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