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The mysteries of rabies

One day, towards the end of summer, I walked into my living room and found my cats playing "Secret CIA Prison" with a bat. He was alive, but just barely. He lay on my floor twitching, his wings torn to Swiss cheese. The cats looked up at me as if to say, "We do good work, yes?" I locked them in the bedroom and called the vet. Fortunately, the cats were all up on their shots. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell the vet how the bat had gotten into the house, nor how long he'd been there.

"You should maybe call your doctor," she said.

On average, 55,000 people worldwide die from rabies every year, but only two or three of those cases happen in the United States, thanks to widespread vaccination of domestic animals and availability of post-bite treatment for humans. Today, when Americans die of rabies, it's usually because they didn't realize they'd been bitten until it was too late—which is to say, when they first noticed symptoms.
 
 

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