Tag: rabies deaths

Personal Stories About Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Parents these days seem to get bombarded with vaccine injury stories and videos on Facebook.

Is that because vaccines cause so many bad reactions?

Of course not.

It’s because some folks think that everything that happens to their kids is a vaccine injury.

Personal Stories About Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

If you are going to watch those videos and listen to their stories, getting scared in the process, be sure to also listen to the stories of parents who’s kids have suffered through actually getting a vaccine-preventable disease.

While it’s great that these diseases are much less common because most people vaccinate and protect their kids, one side effect of that progress is that we don’t have many reminders of just how terrible these diseases are anymore.Have you ever seen a baby with congenital rubella syndrome?

Or a child with tetanus or diphtheria?

Have you ever even seen photos of these diseases?

Will you read these stories of parents who have lost a child to a vaccine-preventable disease.

“Kimberly Coffey was buried three days before her high school graduation in the prom dress she didn’t get to wear. She didn’t have the opportunity to be vaccinated against Meningitis B.”

Kim’s Meningitis Story

In Kimberly‘s case, the Men B vaccine wasn’t yet available, but in many other cases, parents have shared their stories of unvaccinated children who suffered with a disease that was vaccine preventable at the time.

“From 2010 to 2016, young children continued to be at the greatest risk for influenza-associated pediatric deaths. Children without preexisting medical conditions accounted for half of all deaths. Vaccination coverage was low among influenza-associated pediatric deaths.”

Shang et al. on Influenza-Associated Pediatric Deaths in the United States, 2010–2016

Tragically, there are also many flu stories.

But the flu isn’t the only vaccine-preventable disease that still harms children.

This family didn't have a choice about their son getting sick - he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles.
This family didn’t have a choice about their son getting sick – he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles

There are other diseases. Other stories.

Read these stories.

Listen to these parents.

Are the stories supposed to scare you into vaccinating your kids?

Of course not. Just like you shouldn’t let the myths and propaganda from the anti-vaccinate movement scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Instead of being motivated by fear, you should make your decision because you understand that the many benefits of vaccines are far greater than their small risks.

What to Know About Vaccine-Preventable Disease Stories

Reading stories of vaccine-preventable diseases are a good reminder that these diseases are not so mild as some folks suggest, and they are instead life-threatening diseases that are best avoided by getting fully vaccinated.

More Vaccine-Preventable Disease Stories

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Who do you turn to for health advice?

Even if it’s your pediatrician, with the rise of holistic pediatricians, that doesn’t mean that you are getting good advice.

In general, if the advice you are getting lacks evidence that it is safe and effective, relies on anecdotes and testimonials, and is labeled as ‘alternative,’ then it is a safe bet that it is bad advice.

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Some folks seem to be drawn to this type of advice though.

Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.
Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.

As long as they think it is natural, holistic, and is the opposite of what mainstream health experts say to do, some parents will jump at the chance of trying the latest fad, even if it has no benefits and lots of extra risks.

Take giving your kids raw milk for example. Health experts have been warning about the dangers of drinking raw milk for years and even work to keep selling it outlawed in most communities, but some parents still give it to their young children. This is despite the fact that it has no health benefits and isn’t even fortified with vitamin D!

Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?
Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?

What’s worse than giving your kids raw milk? How about skipping your baby’s vitamin K shot? Although it has no major risks, parents of many anti-vaccine and holistic type Facebook groups on the internet are often encouraged to skip this shot.

The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding because they skipped his vitamin K shot.

How come they never warn folks that their baby might die in agony if they skip the shot? After all, there is a very good reason that we started to give all babies vitamin K shots – to stop vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

Just like there is a reason that we started to pasteurize milk – to keep us all from getting critically ill from contaminated milk.

And why we take antibiotics for severe infections, and not essential oils.

“If one gets a cancer diagnosis, they need to detox the toxins that have accumulated in the body, minimize further exposure and boost the immune system to fight the cancer. This is done NATURALLY. Traditional medical approaches (drugs, chemo, radiation) only FURTHER damage the body and immune system.”

Brandy Vaughan for Learn the Risk

And why we take chemotherapy for cancer, and not coffee enemas.

Mud wraps don't cure liver cancer.
Mud wraps don’t cure liver cancer.

And why most of us don’t think to try chiropractic, acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, reflexology, or other non-evidenced based therapies when our kids are sick.

Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn't need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?
Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn’t need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury? Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

Why don’t people get rabies very often any more? It’s not because folks are no longer at risk, although the risk is less because dogs and cats are now vaccinated. It is because the vast majority of people get treated if they are exposed to an animal that might have rabies.

Remember when the six-year-old boy in Florida didn’t after touching a rabid bat? He died.

It’s just like the reason kids don’t get stuck by lightning very often. It’s not because lightning doesn’t happen anymore. It’s because we get a lot of warnings about thunderstorms and we know to go inside at the first sign of lightning in the area. Lightning strikes are rare because we take steps to reduce our risk of getting hit.

Why don’t folks get tetanus that much anymore? Again, most people are vaccinated, and they get boosters if they have wounds that puts them at extra risk. While we know what happens when unvaccinated kids are exposed to tetanus and don’t get treated, that isn’t a risk that you will read about on anti-vaccine websites or Facebook groups.

They also don’t tell you that kids in the US still die of diseases like Hib and rotavirus. And there are still measles deaths in the US.

That’s why the great majority of us get vaccinated, because we understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, and that skipping or delaying any vaccines simply puts our kids at risk to catch one of the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent.

What to Know About the Risks of Following Bad Advice

You might get lucky and have a good outcome when you follow bad advice, but you should at least understand the risks of what might go wrong if you truly think you are making an informed decision.

More on the Risks of Following Bad Advice

How Many People Die from Vaccine Preventable Diseases These Days?

People don’t often die from vaccine-preventable diseases these days.

At least not in industrial countries.

Deaths from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Today

Well, they aren’t supposed to.

Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn't deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe - another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.
Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn’t deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe – another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.

Tragically, we are seeing more and more deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases every day in countries that once had these diseases under good control:

  • over 100 measles deaths across Europe and a measles death in the United States a few years ago
  • diphtheria deaths in Australia, Belgium, South Africa, and Venezuela
  • life-threatening tetanus cases in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Ukraine
  • a rabies death in the United States in a child who’s parents skipped the post-exposure rabies vaccine
  • pertussis deaths in the United States
  • influenza – a record number of deaths in the United States, with most kids unvaccinated
  • rotavirus – yes, unvaccinated kids still die of rotavirus in the United States in the 21st Century! In a recent outbreak in California, in which a child died, almost all of the kids were unvaccinated.

And not surprisingly, these deaths are almost always in unvaccinated children.

Deaths from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the Pre-Vaccine Era

While tragic, we are still fortunate that these deaths are no where close to the levels we once saw before we had vaccines to protect our kids.

In the pre-vaccine era, we used to see:

  • up to 15,000 deaths and 200,000 diphtheria cases each year until the 1940s
  • an average of 175,000 cases of pertussis each year in the early 1940s, with about 1,118 deaths from pertussis in 1950 and 467 deaths from pertussis in 1955
  • up to 20,000 cases of paralytic polio each year until the early 1950s
  • an average of about 186,000 cases of mumps each year before 1967, with an average of 40 deaths a year
  • up to 500 deaths and 500,000 measles cases each year until the early 1960s
  • a rubella epidemic in 1964-65 that caused 12.5 million rubella virus infections and “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome”
  • up to 20,000 cases of invasive H. influenzae (Hib) disease each year, with more than half of them having meningitis, and about 300 to 600 deaths, mostly children under age 2 years. In 1980, 45 children died with epiglottitis and there were an additional 222 deaths from Hib meningitis.
  • up to 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 chicken pox deaths each year until 1995
  • up to 17,000 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease in children younger than 5 years each year (before 2000), including 13,000 cases of bacteremia (blood infection) and 700 cases of pneumococcal meningitis, with 200 deaths.
  • just over 400,000 visits to the doctor and up to 272,000 visits to the emergency room, 70,000 hospitalizations and 20 to 60 deaths each year in children under age 5 years because of rotavirus infections until 2006

But that deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t common is hardly a reason to skip or delay your child’s vaccines, as some might suggest. It is just testament to the fact that vaccines work.

That these deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases quickly rise as rates of vaccinations drop is a tragic reminder that vaccines are necessary.

As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks.
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

And what makes it even more tragic is that this was all predicted and could have been prevented if folks didn’t listen to anti-vaccine propaganda that scares them away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Worldwide Deaths from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Of course, talk of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases shouldn’t stop with the developed or industrial world.

Even as a lot of progress is being made, as more and more people get vaccinated, worldwide, there were:

  • about 89,780 measles deaths, mostly young children
  • about 215,000 deaths from rotavirus infections
  • at least 1 million deaths from hepatitis B
  • almost 200,000 deaths from Hib
  • over 4,200 deaths from chicken pox
  • about 50,000 deaths from meningococcal infections
  • about 160,000 deaths from pertussis
  • about 826,000 deaths from pneumococcal infections
  • almost 60,000 deaths from rabies
  • just over 70,000 deaths from tetanus
  • about 222,000 deaths from typhoid
  • between 30,000 to 60,000 deaths from yellow fever

As you can see, most of these diseases are still big killers around the world.

“You hear about people who don’t like to vaccinate their kids in the Western world, which I suppose is a personal choice, but when you’re out there, the result of your children not being vaccinated is that they’ll likely die, or be horribly maimed. So yes, I saw a real desire to have their children protected, and also a real understanding of it – I didn’t seem to come across anybody who went ‘What is it?’ Or ‘What does it do?’ They all seemed to know about it.”

Ewan McGregor on Cold Chain Mission

In most of these countries, the problem is access to vaccines though, not parents refusing to get their kids vaccinated.

What to Know About Deaths from Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Unvaccinated kids are still dying from vaccine-preventable diseases.

More on Deaths from Vaccine Preventable Diseases

When Was the Last Time Someone Died from Being Bitten by a Rabid Dog in the United States?

Most people aren’t overly worried about rabies these days, at least not in the United States.

In the mid-1950s, rabies control programs began to get more and more dogs vaccinated against rabies.
In the mid-1950s, rabies control programs began to get more and more dogs vaccinated against rabies.

Is that because rabies isn’t around anymore?

Of course not. It is because a rabies vaccine has long been available both to prevent our pets from getting rabies from wild animals and to protect us if we are ever bitten by an animal that might have rabies.

Hopefully, especially after the recent rabies death of the 6-year-old in Florida, everyone understands that rabies is still around.

When Was the Last Time Someone Died from Being Bitten by a Rabid Dog in the United States?

Since 2008, at least 21 people have died of rabies in the United States, mostly after getting exposed to rabid bats.

There were more than a few exposures from dogs with rabies too. In fact, the last rabies death after a dog bite was not very long ago – it was in May 2017.

Exposure to rabid dogs typically happened while the person was out of the United States.
Exposure to rabid dogs typically happened while the person was out of the United States.

Does that mean that something isn’t working with our rabies prevention plans?

When you take a closer look at the statistics about rabies deaths after dog bites, it becomes clear where the problem is.

“In 1950, for example, 4,979 cases of rabies were reported among dogs, and 18 cases were reported among humans. Between 1980 and 1997, 95 to 247 cases were reported each year among dogs, and on average only two human cases were reported each year in which rabies was attributable to variants of the virus associated with indigenous dogs . Thus, the likelihood of human exposure to a rabid domestic animal in the United States has decreased greatly.”

Human Rabies Prevention – United States, 1999 Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

Most rabies deaths in the United States from dogs occur in people who get bitten while they are traveling outside the country.

So when was the last human rabies death from a rabid domestic dog in the United States?

A 7-year-old girl died after she was bitten by a rabid dog in Texas in June 1979. Before that, in 1968, a 13-year-old boy died after getting bit by a rabid dog in Kansas.

That’s a long time ago.

Does that mean the rabies vaccine isn’t necessary anymore?

Rabies Vaccines Work

Of course not! That means the rabies vaccines works!

Two Indonesian boys proudly show off their puppy and her vaccination record.
Two Indonesian boys proudly show off their puppy and her vaccination record. Photo by the rabiesalliance.org.

There are two reasons that we don’t see human rabies deaths from dog bites in the United States anymore, unless the bites occur in another country:

  1. Most of us vaccinate our pets – fewer dogs and cats with rabies means that there are fewer chances for us to get bit and get rabies.
  2. Most folks get proper treatment if they are exposed to an animal that could possibly have rabies, whether it is an unvaccinated dog or cat, or a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, or bat. In fact, about 40,000 to 50,000 people in the United States get rabies post-exposure prophylaxis each year.

If you don’t believe this, just look back at what rabies was like in the pre-vaccine era, when dogs and cats would get rabies, and so would their owners. In the early 1960s and 1950s, rabies deaths from dog bites were more common, about 10 each year.

“The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the 1990’s. Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100% successful.”

CDC on Rabies in the U.S.

To understand just why rabies vaccines still so necessary,  you can also look at what is still happening around the world where rabies vaccines aren’t used as commonly as they are in more industrialized countries.

“Despite substantial gains in tackling this neglected disease, more than 20,000 people still die from rabies every year, mostly in Asia and Africa.”

Schneider et al on Substantial reductions in rabies, but still a lot to be done

In addition to the deaths from folks traveling outside the United States, there are many more rabies deaths in people, mostly children, who live in areas where rabies is still endemic.

Hopefully these deaths will end soon too, as experts from WHO, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) work together in the United Against Rabies collaboration to achieve “Zero human Rabies deaths by 2030.”

Because it has an animal reservoir, the rabies virus will likely always be around, and won’t be eradicated like smallpox, but hopefully we can one day control rabies by having fewer rabies exposures (vaccinate more of our pets) and we can eliminate dog-transmitted rabies deaths.

We won’t get there if folks continue to push myths and propaganda about rabies and the rabies vaccine.

What to Know About Controlling Rabies and Rabies Deaths

It has been a long time since someone in the United States died with rabies from a domestic dog bite, but that is simply a testament to the fact that vaccines work.

More on Controlling Rabies and Rabies Deaths

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Rabies

Do kids still get rabies?

Tragically, most folks know that they do because of the story of the unvaccinated 6-year-old boy in Florida who died after being exposed to a rapid bat earlier this year.

Getting Exposed to Rabies

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease.

Unlike most other vaccine-preventable diseases though, unless you are at high risk for getting rabies, you don’t typically get the rabies vaccine unless you have already been exposed to rabies.

How does one get exposed to rabies?

Now that most people get their pets vaccinated against rabies, these exposures typically come from wild animals, including:

  • raccoons
  • skunks
  • foxes
  • coyotes
  • bats

While any mammal can be susceptible to rabies, small mammals, including squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares, rarely get rabies and aren’t usually thought to be a risk for humans.

Your other pets, including dogs, cats, and ferrets, are though. They should be vaccinated against rabies. As should other domestic animals, including cows, goats, sheep, and horses.

To avoid rabies, teach your kids to avoid wild animals.
To avoid rabies, teach your kids to avoid wild animals. Photo by Emilie Chen (CC BY-ND 2.0)

It is also important to teach your kids to avoid wild animals. While most kids won’t go out of their way to pet a coyote, they might try to feed a racoon or skunk, and they might pick up a bat they find on the ground.

Kids should also avoid cats and dogs that they don’t know. Your kids should not just walk up and pet unfamiliar dogs and cats.

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Rabies

Unfortunately, you won’t always know if an animal has rabies, although an animal acting strangely can be a tip off that they might have rabies.

Never touch a bat that you find on the ground during the day, as it might have rabies.
Never touch a bat that you find on the ground during the day, as it might have rabies. Photo by Radu Privantu (CC BY 2.0)

That bat your kids found on the ground could definitely have rabies, especially if they found it during the day. And the bat doesn’t even have to obviously bite your child. For example, if you find a sick or dead bat in your child’s room in the morning when he wakes up, you should consider that a possible exposure to rabies.

Many other exposures happen when kids are bitten by stray cats or dogs.

What do you do?

According to the CDC, if your child is bitten by any animal or has any possible exposure to rabies, you should:

  • immediately wash the wound well with soap and water, also using a povidone-iodine solution (Betadine Antiseptic Solution) to irrigate the wound if it is available
  • see a healthcare provider
  • call your local animal control for help in capturing the animal for observation or rabies testing

Animal control can also help in verifying a pet’s rabies vaccination status if your child was bitten by a neighborhood cat or dog.

“A healthy domestic dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person should be confined and observed for 10 days. Those that remain alive and healthy 10 days after a bite would not have been shedding rabies virus in their saliva and would not have been infectious at the time of the bite.”

CDC on Human Rabies Prevention — United States, 2008

In general, unless they already appear rabid, dogs, cats, and ferrets can be quarantined and observed for 10 days to see if they develop signs of rabies before your child begins post-exposure prophylaxis.

Other animals, including skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bats should be considered rabid, with a quick start of post-exposure prophylaxis, unless the animal can be quickly tested (brain material) for rabies. And of course, you would be more considered about rabies if the animal was acting strangely, looked sick, or if it was an unprovoked attack.

What if you can’t find or capture the animal?

Depending on the circumstances, your pediatrician, with the help of your local or state health department, can determine if your child needs rabies post-exposure prophylaxis with rabies immune globulin and a 4 dose series of the rabies vaccine over 2 weeks.

“The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the 1990’s. Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100% successful.”

CDC on Rabies in the U.S.

About 40,000 to 50,000 people in the United States get rabies post-exposure prophylaxis each year. That works to keep the number of rabies cases and rabies deaths in people very low.

And it is not probably not at the top of your list of things to think about at a time like this, but animal bites can also be a risk for tetanus. Make sure your child doesn’t need a tetanus shot.

What to Know About Getting Exposed to Rabies

Keep your kids safe from rabies by vaccinating your pets and teaching them to avoid wild animals, but also know what to do if your child is exposed to rabies.

More on Getting Exposed to Rabies