Miracle Girl Survives Fight With Rabies

Filed under: In The News, Amazing Kids

Rabies

The survival rate for rabies -- unless the virus is attacked early and aggressively -- is practically zero. Credit: Getty Images

An old journalistic axiom tells us "dog bites man" is not news. It's just not extraordinary enough.

Oh really? What if the dog (or cat) has rabies, the victim is not a man but a little girl and (get this) the girl is alive and doing fine?

Then you have more than a news story. You have a miracle.

The survival rate for rabies -- unless the virus is attacked early and aggressively -- is practically zero. And the San Francisco Chronicle reports 8-year-old Precious Reynolds certainly had a rough go of it. She was in a coma at UC Davis Children's Hospital.

Nonetheless, she's alive.

Only three people in the United States can make that claim after facing down rabies, and Reynolds is the only one in California.

Rabies is rare. There are only three or four cases a year in the United States, but the results are usually fatal. The Chronicle reports there have been eight cases in California in the past 11 years and, until Reynolds, no survivors.

Maybe it helps the little girl is a professional wrestling fan.

"I'd tell her that she had a big bad bug inside her, and she had to fight this big bad bug," her grandmother Shirlee Roby tells the Chronicle. "I told her she had to put him on the mat and put him in a half-nelson and pin him. And by golly if she didn't do it."

Rabies attacks the nervous system, damaging and disabling basic bodily functions from breathing to swallowing and eventually going after the brain. Humans get the virus when they're bitten or scratched by infected animals.

A vaccine given shortly after a person is bitten is highly effective at preventing illness. But sometimes people are bitten and don't know it. No one knows how Reynolds got the virus. However, the Chronicle reports, a feral cat she was playing with a few weeks before she became ill is on the short list of suspects.

At first, Reynolds had flu-like symptoms, becoming increasingly weak. Within days, she was on a ventilator at the hospital.

Treatment for rabies is intense. Patients are put into a drug-induced coma, basically to shut down their brains so the virus can't get to it. Reynolds was a in a coma for about a week.

The Chronicle reports she may have suffered some permanent neurological damage from the infection, but she's up and walking around with the help of a walker and able to talk and write. Her doctors tell the Chronicle it is a miracle, one no one should expect to repeat itself.

"These cases are giving us a better understanding of the spectrum of rabies," Arup Roy-Burman, a pediatric intensive care physician at Children's Hospital Oakland, tells the newspaper. "Survival from rabies is likely dependent upon both host, meaning the patient, and virus factors."

Still, he adds, Reynold's case is wonderful. "It's very exciting to see survivors from this disease. We're at least letting people know that it's not necessarily futile" to treat rabies.

As for Reynolds, she's happy to be going home to be with her family and Copper, the family dog.

"I like animals," she tells the Chronicle. "They're nice. Some of them."

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