by Ryan Burns
A remarkable turn of events in the story of a Willow Creek resident who was diagnosed with rabies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): According to the Two Rivers Tribune, the victim's family expects the victim to make a full recovery. The TRT story identifies the victim as "a young girl."
If both the diagnosis and the predictions of recovery hold true, this would be only the second recorded case of human survival of rabies in the absence of either pre- or postexposure prophylaxis. The first -- and so far only -- such case occured in 2004, when a 15-year-old Wisconsin girl recovered after contracting the disease from a bat, according to the CDC.
County officials could not confirm the prospects for recovery. "We don't have any information to disclose about the child's condition beyond saying that her condition is improving," said Humboldt County Public Education Officer Heather Muller.
The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services issued a press release today announcing that the investigation into the source of the disease is "winding down" without a positive identification.
"Our main suspect is feral, unvaccinated cats, but we have investigated other wild and domestic animal sources as well," county health officer Dr. Ann Lindsay said in the release.
The rest of the release is below.
Public Health, in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and California Department of Public Health, conducted several hundred interviews of residents in the Willow Creek area. The purpose of the interviews was to determine if other people were at possible risk of contracting rabies.
"While no definitive exposures were identified, out of an abundance of caution the decision was made to vaccinate some individuals who had come into contact with the patient," said Lindsay. "This includes medical personnel and family members."
Lindsay said, "Because of the heightened awareness and our investigation, we identified two other individuals who were at possible risk from animal bites that were unrelated to this situation. Those two are receiving vaccination as well."
The resident is currently in stable condition and showing improvement. Lindsay said "Public Health Nurses are in contact with the hospital and the family. We are encouraged by the news that the patient has improved."
Public Health nurses continue to meet with concerned residents and investigate possible leads.
"The number-one thing residents can do to protect themselves and their families is to vaccinate their domestic animals," Lindsay said. Several low-cost vaccination clinics are scheduled. Call (707) 445-6200 for more information or to get a copy of the schedule.