I Don’t Want to Alarm Anyone, But I’m Pretty Sure I Have Rabies

angry-looking cat
angry-looking cat
This picture doesn

Do the lights in this room seem brighter than usual? I almost asked that question at work today, but I stopped myself just in time. We were all sitting around the conference table, chatting or checking email on our laptops while waiting for the last few stragglers to come in before the meeting started. It was just like any other day, with one difference — the lights were really uncomfortably bright. So I wanted to know if they were bothering anyone else and, more importantly, whether we could turn them down.


But then it hit me — increased sensitivity to light is a symptom of rabies. And if I knew that particular bit of obscure medical trivia, then at least half my colleagues probably knew it too. I could just imagine the chain of events that my seemingly innocent question would set off: no one would say anything, but the people sitting closest to me would edge away ever so slightly. Others would quietly do web searches and then make subtle attempts to steer the discussion towards questions that could be used to confirm a rabies diagnosis (“Committing to add all those features in such a short time frame would be a huge mistake that would come back and bite us in the end. Is that a good metaphor? I’ve never been bitten by an animal, so I don’t really know what it’s like. Can someone describe it?”), and I’d just sit there quietly, feeling uncomfortable. If pressed for an answer, I’d attempt to change the subject (“Are you sure that’s a metaphor and not a simile?”), but I probably wouldn’t succeed (because only takes about 30 seconds to google “simile vs metaphor” and determine that yes, in fact, it is a metaphor. Sometimes I hate the Internet). Eventually, the questions would die down, but the wariness would remain, and within a few days HR would send the inevitable memo “reminding” everyone of the company’s strict no-biting policy.

It took me a while to figure out how I got rabies. At first I thought it was because of that time I was bitten by a dog — but I was about 8 years old then, and the dog that bit me was current on its vaccinations. Maybe the particular dose of rabies vaccine that this dog got was defective, and instead of granting immunity, it just extended the incubation period.

That seemed a little far-fetched. My next theory was that I got it from my cats. They don’t bite, but they do always seem to want to share my water glass. But then, how did the cats get rabies? They’re indoor kitties, and I don’t generally let other animals into the house, so I guess they would have had to have been bitten by a rabid burglar. Does it count as burglary if they break into your house and bite your cats, but don’t steal anything? To be honest, this whole scenario seems pretty unlikely.

A cloud of bats
If one of these bats bit you, would you notice? Image from phil.cdc.gov.

After dismissing my first two theories, I began to question whether I even had rabies, so I turned to the Internet for answers. After doing a little research, I finally got my answer: I do have rabies, and I got it from a bat. According to my county’s Department of Public Health, bats are responsible for most cases of rabies in humans in the US. I don’t actually remember ever having been bitten by a bat, but according to that same public health page, bat bites “often go unnoticed by the victim”, so the fact that I don’t remember it happening probably means that it did.


But enough about me — what about you? Are you being bitten by a rabid bat right now, as you’re reading this? Are you sure?

19 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to Alarm Anyone, But I’m Pretty Sure I Have Rabies

  1. Aversion to bright lights you say… maybe it was a vampire that bit you. They are closely associated to bats, and that cat in the photo looks quite vampiric too… you can relax, Laura, you don’t have rabies. You’re a vampire.

  2. Weird… I’m experiencing light sensitivity right now, too. Also, time seems to have slowed dramatically. Come to think of it, this happened last Friday, too.

    1. Changes in time perception are a pretty clear sign that you’re a character in a science fiction movie. So don’t worry — you probably don’t have rabies, unless the movie you’re in is about some kind of horrific mutant alien rabies.

    1. I didn’t, thanks! And I like that better than “cloud” or “colony”, because it’s inherently spookier and because you can say things like “a boiling cauldron of rabid bats” that really wouldn’t work with the other two.

      I wonder why all the bat-related collective nouns start with C. None of them is quite as cool as “a murder of crows”, though — it’s too bad “a conspiracy of bats” isn’t an option.

  3. Good job on keeping your rabies on the down low. If you want to bite a bunch of coworkers or friends, the last thing you want to do is give away that you might be rabid. I have learned this lesson the hard way.

  4. So, um, hypothetically … if you get bitten by a rabid vampire bat, do you turn into a vampire, get rabies, or turn into a rabid vampire?

    1. Naah — you’re probably fine. A single incident of forgetfulness doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong, especially since breakfast such a routine occurrence. You’d only have reason to worry if this were part of a pattern of extreme crazy forgetfulness — like, for example, if you’d gone to the trouble of ordering a bunch of personalized cookies to be sent to yourself and then forgot all about it.

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