Saturday, May 22, 2010

It was just a small blur of fur

File this one under - what are the chances?  I've heard of people hitting deer before.  One woman I met even had the unfortunate coincidence of being under a falling tree while on her bike.  But a small blur of fur?

The story
Mile 30ish of 35 on Thursday's training ride on the new bike.  On the road in Hunt Valley, coasting downhill.  I'll guess 25 mph - none of my bikes have computers on them right now.  Out of my peripheral vision, a blur of fur comes running and/or rolling from the woods on my right, between my wheels and out the other side.  Somewhere in there it touched my left ankle with some part of its body.

I was a bit freaked out but managed to keep the rubber side down and my blood pressure returned to normal in a few minutes.  But when I looked down, there was blood running down my ankle.  Said small blur of fur was long gone by this point... I think it was a squirrel....

But how sure was I?  And what part of it had touched me enough to scratch me - you know, like when you nick yourself shaving kind of scratch.  One that doesn't hurt but bleeds a bit more than you like.

So I scrubbed it out when I got home and called around Friday morning to find out about rabies exposure.  Since rabies is pretty much 100% fatal in humans, I wanted to check, ya know.

Aside: rabies is still a problem in developing countries where pets, mostly dogs, are not routinely vaccinated.  40,000-70,000 people per year die worldwide from rabies.

Finally I happened upon the Health Department who were most helpful.  He asked how sure I was it was a squirrel?  Well, I don't know, I said.  What else could it have been?  A baby raccoon... hmm, well, maybe I'm not so sure it was a squirrel.

It wasn't a rock.  It wasn't a groundhog.  It wasn't laying dead in the road for a second look, either.

The helpful health department guy says, well, your chances of rabies exposure are pretty minimal here, but whether you go get the shots is up to you.  Oh, and here's your case number, "sorry about this, but it's 666."

I'm not a superstitious person, but long story short, yesterday afternoon was a trip to the ER for round 1 of rabies vaccination series.  Nothing like having 4cc's or so of immunoglobulin injected in and around your achilles.

The morals
  1. Call the Health Department. They know how many rabid animals of what species are found in the area.  And they have a clue.  And they are nice.
  2. Know what kind of animal you encountered.  Squirrels and other rodents (except groundhogs) apparently don't usually carry rabies.  Raccoons are another story.  Disclaimer: this information is local to my area and the Health dept.'s recommendations.  See moral 1.
  3. Try to figure out whether you've got a scratch or a bite. 
  4. You can only get round 1 of a rabies vaccine series at the ER.  Doesn't matter how many places you call.  They will all send you to the ER.
  5. It was pretty cool to meet cyclists along my rabies information and vaccine hunt.  The PA who treated me at the ER is a triathlete.  The guy at the health department rode his bike to work today.  Both understood why it was I might not have actually seen what happened, given that I was more focused on staying rubber side down.  And that I would have been a much bigger mess if I had come in covered in road rash.
  6. Baltimore city ER's have lots of cops.  And patients handcuffed to the beds.

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