By: Sharon Aron Baron
A typical father and daughter stroll turned into an emergency room visit after an unprovoked raccoon bit the girl, prompting quick action with anti-rabies vaccinations.
On May 31, around 5:45 p.m., Charlene Rice said that her ex-husband Giancarlo was taking a walk with their 13-year-old daughter in Coral Springs near the entrance of his neighborhood of The Fairways in Heron Bay. She was less than 5 feet in front of him when she heard a growling noise from the bushes, followed by a raccoon running towards her which immediately latched on and bit her leg. When she screamed, and Giancarlo yelled, the raccoon finally let go. Giancarlo tried to throw a rock at the animal while it was running away, but missed.
According Charlene, it was daylight outside, and raccoons tend to be primarily nocturnal animals.
“Either she was trying to protect her babies, or she was rabid,” she said.
The raccoon had wounded the girl’s shin causing it to bleed, so the father immediately took her to Broward Health Coral Springs. According to the Center for Disease Control, when a human is bitten by an animal, at first there may not be any symptoms. But weeks, or even months after a bite, rabies can cause pain, fatigue, headaches, fever, and irritability. These are followed by seizures, hallucinations, and paralysis. Human rabies is almost always fatal.
The hospital determined that the teen would be treated as if the animal had rabies.
She received two shots to the wounded area: a post-exposure anti-rabies vaccination and a human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) shot. Since the vaccine is given at recommended intervals, she was given the shots the day of the exposure, and then she needed to return for subsequent doses on days 3, 7, and 14.
“You have to go to Department of Health or a hospital for [for the shots] depending on insurance,” said Charlene, who took her back to the hospital last Saturday, since the Department of Health was closed. Feeling dizzy after her second does of shots, she was kept in the hospital for the day until she was well enough to leave.
“My deductible is so high, my whole summer will be paying for these bills,” said Charlene. “These are thousands of dollars.”
Although the cost varies, a course of rabies immune globulin and four doses of vaccine given over a two-week period typically exceeds $3,000. This doesn’t include hospital, or emergency room expenses.
Coral Springs residents should always be cautious around wildlife. The good news is that according to the Department of Health, there have been no reported cases of rabies in Broward County since 2015.
A student at Forest Glen Middle School in Coral Springs, Charlene said that her daughter, fortunately, did not miss any school after the attack.