An Oct. 8 Capital News Service story on rabies included numerous reporting errors and we are publishing a corrected version of the story on our web site.
The details are as follows:
A description of standards for payments for the vaccine, attributed in part to state health department veterinarian Dr. David Crum, was incorrect. Patients are advised “of all financial assistance programs that are available,” according to the health department. “The Department will cover the charge of the rabies biologics for those persons deemed unable to pay that meet established criteria.”
A sentence that said “some people commonly opt out of treatment” was incorrectly attributed to Crum. Rather, “in the rare event that rabies PEP is declined, Maryland state and local health officials and the clinician providing care would counsel the individual to ensure that they fully understand their decision,” according to the Maryland health department.
Two sentences that described transmission of rabies were also incorrect.
According to the health department: “Rabies is … usually transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. Rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva and brain/nervous system tissue of an animal infected with rabies.”
In addition to the wild animals described in the story, “domestic animals, including livestock, are also at risk, and cats are the most frequently identified rabid domestic animal,” according to the health department.
And a sentence describing emergency room treatment did not mention that a reason for the emergent treatment is for medical evaluation and treatment associated with a bite or serious injury in addition to the rabies exposure, not solely because of it, according to the state health department.
A description of the jurisdictions with the most reported rabies exposure cases from 2015 through 2019 incorrectly excluded Baltimore County.
And the average number of animal bites statewide was also incorrectly reported as 13,000. Each year, more than 10,000 animal bites are reported in Maryland, and about 2,000 more reports are tallied of non-bite exposures, according to state health department data.
This story was also updated to add information about the average number of treatments per year in Maryland.
A corrected story follows:
CNS-MARYLAND-RABIES-CORRECTION — 660 words
Rabies: Animal bites can come at a price
EDITORS: Writethru and corrections throughout.
EDITORS: Photo: Healthy bat hanging in a cave in Round Top Mines in Maryland, in 2019. Bats have been known to carry the rabies virus and any encounter is cause for medical treatment. Daniel Feller/Maryland Department of Natural Resources)
By Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — In 2016, Nicholas Fletcher said, he was in the process of moving out of his Baltimore home when several bats swept in through the chimney and into his basement.
As Fletcher was ushering the winged creatures from his home, he was bitten on his left foot leaving a faint but potentially life-threatening red mark.
With little hesitation, Fletcher decided to get treated at the nearest emergency room, where the medical professional asked whether he had brought the bat with him so that it could be tested for rabies.
“No. Why would I bring you the bat?” Fletcher said. “I don’t have the bat. The bat’s outside living its best life.”
Fletcher endured immunizations and treatment costing at least $5,000, which his insurance covered.
Rabies treatment consists of a single immunoglobulin injection administered at the wound site and the arm followed by four vaccinations given over a 14-day period. The regimen is proven to be virtually 100% effective in preventing rabies.
“If I didn’t have health insurance, I probably would have hesitated a little bit. But at the end of the day five grand is not worth my life,” Fletcher told Capital News Service.
However, everyone in Maryland who needs to be treated for rabies exposure can get treatment.
Those seeking treatment in Maryland should go to an emergency department for medical evaluation and treatment associated with a bite or serious injury in addition to the rabies exposure, according to the state health department.
Rabies hasn’t been eradicated and still poses a public health threat that needs to be addressed, said Dr. David A. Crum, public health veterinarian for the Maryland Department of Health.
“We know rabies is here (everywhere),” Crum said, and it’s important to get medical treatment.
“Those who meet the criteria are not going to be denied the vaccine in Maryland,” Crum said.
Patients are advised “of all financial assistance programs that are available,” according to the Maryland health department in a written statement to Capital News Service. “The Department will cover the charge of the rabies biologics for those persons deemed unable to pay that meet established criteria.”
Each year, more than 10,000 animal bites are reported in Maryland, and an additional 2,000 reports are tallied of non-bite exposures. https://health.maryland.gov/phpa/OIDEOR/CZVBD/pages/Data-and-Statistics.aspx
The five-year average from 2015 through 2019 in the state is approximately 446 post-exposure rabies treatments every year, a media representative for the Maryland Department of Health said. The exact number is not available as surveillance is limited, the representative said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 55,000 Americans receive the treatment every year. As of 2019, the average cost of rabies treatment and preventatives was $3,800, which doesn’t include an emergency department visit or wound care, according to the CDC.
There have been about 30 rabies-related deaths in the U.S. from 2009 through 2018, according to the CDC.
The only rabies fatality in Maryland during this period was in 2013 via kidney transplant, according to the CDC.
In 2018, Maryland had the seventh-largest number of positive animal rabies cases in the United States with almost 270, which ranks it above some more populated states, according to CDC data.
From 2015 through 2019, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City had the most reported cases of rabies exposure in the state.
In Maryland, among wild animals, raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats most often carry the virus. Cats are most frequently infected among domestic animals, including livestock, according to the health department.
Rabies is usually transmitted to humans through saliva of an animal infected with the virus, but it can also be transmitted through brain and nervous system tissue.
Among those who are not vaccinated, the virus is nearly always fatal.
“In the rare event that rabies PEP is declined, Maryland state and local health officials and the clinician providing care would counsel the individual to ensure that they fully understand their decision,” according to the Maryland health department.