Rabies is not the way to go (part 6)

The treatment for rabies is not what it used to be. 

Not so long ago it consisted of twenty or more painful shots into the abdomen delivered by a needle the size of a fencepost. This treatment is now obsolete, as I have (thankfully) discovered.

Today, human rabies immune globulin is inserted directly into the wound site(s) in a series of injections. As I understand it (and the reader should be cautious now: while I am a doctor, I am not the helpful kind) the purpose of these shots is to provide immediate antibodies to hold the fort until the cavalry arrives. One's own body will muster a response but it takes time. The blast of immune globulin goes to work immediately to keep the rabies virus from charging willy-nilly through the nervous system. This is critical because if those little buggers reach the spinal column and brain, it is 100% fatal. ¡Adios Amigos

Gamma globulin   arrives. Image from  here.

Gamma globulin arrives. Image from here.


What follows may seem out of place in our current story, but if you are patient you will develop a important virtue. Then you may follow me for these four steps.

Step one. There was once a lovely virgin who lived in the mountainous region between Spain and France. Her name was Quiteria. Long story short, she was beheaded by her own father in the fifth century for refusing to renounce her faith. But before the arrival of that awful moment, she once held two mad dogs at bay with nothing more than her saintly voice. Because of this amazing power she is remembered by many as a protectress against rabies.

Step two. Just three days ago I stumbled across a bridge in northern Spain that crosses the Arga River near the little town of Zubiri. Locals call the Roman-era construction El Puente de la rabia, or "the bridge of rabies" because it seems that some of the relics of Saint Quiteria were interred in the central pier of the bridge! You can only imagine my excitement upon learning this unexpected news.

Step three. Tradition has it that animals brought to the bridge and led around the central pier three times will become immune to rabies. And if a rabid animal is led around the pier (don't you wonder what that looks like?) will be cured!

Wading around the central pillar of  El Puente de la rabia.

Wading around the central pillar of El Puente de la rabia.

Step four: I immediately set about leading myself around the pier three times. Me and this bridge and Quiteria had a few things in common (except for Quiteria's ability to talk down mad dogs).


Back in Beer-sheva, Israel, the doctor-in-boots delivered a series of injections to my leg and hands. And she was right; it did sting, particularly the ones in my hands. However, with each shot I offered a silent "thank you" to God and to the clever people who developed this procedure. In almost any other time or place, I would be dead. The stings were preferable, even though I did lose count after about 20.

As a finisher, I was given another rabies vaccine in the shoulder along with strict orders to continue this treatment once a week for four weeks more. 

I just wish I could have known in Israel that I would discover the Bridge of Rabies in Spain. I'm sure our dour doctor-in-boots would have been pleased. 

The Ministry of Health released this notice after my experience at Tel Dan.

The Ministry of Health released this notice after my experience at Tel Dan.