Rabies Victim: Full Recovery Expected

By SHELLY MIDDLETON, Two Rivers Tribune Contributing Writer

Despite all odds, the family of the rabies victim in Willow Creek reported Monday that the young girl, whose identity is being withheld, is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery.

The Humboldt County Public Health Department (HCPHD) was first contacted by the Center for Disease Controls (CDC) May 6, with information that a Willow Creek resident had tested positive for the Rabies virus following an onset of symptoms that urged local physicians to transfer the patient to an out of the area hospital.

A member of the victim’s family reported on Monday that the child remains in intensive care at UC Davis in Sacramento and is in good spirits. The family member said the victim has not been able to communicate with family or physicians because of her medical condition but because of improved health, physicians were expected to remove a tube from the victim’s throat Tuesday.

The family member said the child first became ill with flu-like symptoms including fever, nausea, vomiting. She felt weak so the family rushed her to Mad River Hospital.

“She had flu symptoms. She couldn’t keep anything down and she got really weak,” said the family member.

The CDC reports human rabies virus symptoms as a general feeling of discomfort, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, depression, fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headache, nausea, and vomiting, but can also lead to hallucination, seizures, and eventually coma.

The family member said the symptoms began to worsen so the victim was rushed to UC Davis. The family member said doctors were able to determine that the victim had contracted the rabies virus within 3-5 days of her treatment.

HCPHD Program Manager, Mike Goldsby said as of Monday they still have yet to identify the source, nor did the family have any idea as to how she contracted the disease.

The most recent press release issued by HCPHD reported that they were narrowing the source.

“There are still several potential sources including possible contact with a feral cat,” the press release stated.

Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District (KTJUSD) Nurse, Angie Brown stated in a recent release addressed to parents and guardians, that there is a feral cat population that lives behind Trinity Valley Elementary School, but due to the presence of rabies in the county, school officials had contacted the Humboldt County Animal Control to have the colony removed from the school grounds.

The virus was difficult, in this case, to diagnose since Goldsby said in nearly all human cases reported in the U.S., the victim is treated for an animal bite then immediately treated for the virus. In this case it is unclear whether or not the victim was bit or even scratched, both of which are typical in human rabies cases.

“It is so rare to have rabies transferred from human to human,” said Goldsby. “This was a real diagnostic challenge. This isn’t something that would immediately come to mind.”

HCPHD Officials believe the source to be animal, however because most animals who contract the disease die within ten days of being infected that animal is most likely deceased.

Human rabies in the US is extremely rare. Since the 1990s, only one to two cases have been reported each year.

There was a public meeting held on Thursday at TVES to discuss the virus and the potential threat of exposure to the community.

“There is no risk to the general public or others who may have known the individual, been with the individual, or shared a meal with the individual,” Brown stated in a letter to KTJUSD parents.

The virus cannot be transmitted through the air, by sneezing or hugging. It is primarily transferred from animal to human through saliva. There have been no other similar cases reported since the victim was hospitalized.

The family member said the victim will undergo physical therapy and should return home within the next several weeks.

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