Today, while walking in the outskirts of Silver City, New Mexico, I was charged by a trio of dogs, one of whom managed to bite me on the inner thigh as I tried to turn and walk away from their barking ferocity. Normally a dog lover ( I have a dog myself), I am rarely frightened by dogs and generally have a way with them, but this triumverate were none too friendly, and I limped back to our campground as I called my wife on her cell phone and asked her to boil some water and ready the First Aid kit. (My wife and I have been traveling in an RV for six months, chronicling our adventures on our travel blog.)
Here's a photo of my wound.....
Interestingly, the Silver City Animal Control Officer was reluctant to come to see me at the campground, although he indeed paid a visit to the dogs' owner, who accused me of trespassing, a conclusion which I summarily rejected as false. Trespassing or not, a loose dog without a collar, identification or civilized manners had charged me and managed to sink a few teeth into my tender flesh, and the only thing truly on my mind was rabies.
According to the CDC (and most other authorities on the matter), if a person is bitten by an animal whose rabies vaccination status cannot be determined, that individual should receive a series of five rabies vaccinations (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP) beginning on the day of the bite (also referred to as "Day Zero"), followed by vaccines on days 3, 7, 14 and 28. Rabies immune globulin (RIG) should also be administered as a second vaccine on Day 0, with up to half of the RIG vaccination injected into the tissue surrounding the site. Rabies is a serious illness with serious consequences, including contractions, high fever, confusion, agitation, coma and death.
As one can imagine, aside from administering First Aid to the site, and flushing it with hot soapy water and hydrogen peroxide, identifying whether or not a rabies vaccine series was necessary was first and foremost in my mind. Luckily for me, once we involved the local Sheriff's department in the case, we were informed within two hours of the incident that the canine in question was indeed up-to-date on his vaccinations, a conclusion that was obviously a happy one for us travelers.
Needless to say, dear Readers, rabies is a serious illness and must be taken seriously. If you or someone you know is bitten by an animal of unknown origin or vaccination status, prompt First Aid and rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis is paramount. Act quickly, seek medical attention, and be sure to follow all recommendations for treatment of such an injury, and you will be happier and healthier for it!