Local woman recounts treatment for exposure to rabies

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Tallahassee By: Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 20, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health issued a Rabies Alert for Leon County after six wild animals tested positive the disease. A representative said, in all six cases, a human was scratched or bitten by the rabid animal.

According to the health department, Rabies is almost 100-percent fatal . Experts said that once an infected party begins to show signs or symptoms, it is most-likely too late. While the disease cannot be cured, it can be prevented. That is why it is so important to get the treatment immediately

South Georgia resident Ansley Simmons learned all about in in Fall of 2018 after she was roused from her sleep when something hit her in the back of the head.

"I put on my glasses and saw a bat flying around the room," she said. "I had no idea how the bat got in."

She also said she had no idea how much danger that interaction put her in.

"No one told me," she told WCTV reporter Katie Kaplan. "My life could be very, very different right now. When you know that you've been exposed to a wild animal, it's a matter of life or death."

Luckily for her, a close friend caught wind of the situation and urged her to immediately seek treatment at a Tallahassee emergency room.

"She probably saved my life," Simmons said.

That friend is Stephanie Moody-Geissler, an epidemiologist, which in short means she studies diseases for a living.

"We are kind of like disease detectives," Moody-Geissler said. "If you have been attacked, bitten, or scratched by a wild animal it is important that you receive medical attention."

A series of shots can vaccinate against the virus and prevent it from turning into the deadly rabies disease, said Moody-Geissler.

According to the Florida Department of Health's Website, an estimated 59,000 people around the world die of rabies every year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Website said 7 out of 10 Americans who pass away from Rabies become infected by bats. However, common carriers also include raccoons and foxes, like the ones that recently tested positive in Leon County.

Any warm-blooded animal can transmit the disease to a human, or their pets such as a cat, dog or horse. Experts say if you see an animal acting strangely- either overly-aggressive or overly-tame, do not try to help it. Instead call animal control.

Mood-Geissler is the creator of The Pump Handle Podcast and recently conducted an episode about Rabies. In it, Simmon's recounted her experience and subsequent treatment for potential exposure. You can find it here .