Published on June 30th, 2015 | by Richard Black2
Who’s Got Rabies!!!!? (Hopefully It’s Not Me)
I wrote this post last week and meant to put it up on Friday. Unfortunately the Supreme Court, despite my objections to wait until this week to release their ruling on gay marriage, decided that I didn’t have enough pull in the media to warrant putting off their momentous decision and I was compelled to write another post congratulating the LGTBQ community on their victory. I now return you to my regularly scheduled jackassery.
Last week I discovered that like parenting, life, is often full of surprises. Occasionally it involves one’s toddler blowing out a diaper in a car seat during rush hour traffic and sometimes it involves waiting for a phone call from the Department of Public Health to tell one that he, or she (or me) might not have rabies.
Actually that’s not entirely correct as far as the call about rabies is concerned or my daughter blowing out a diaper in her car seat. She is almost five and usually waited to shit herself silly until she was in the tub when this sort of thing was commonplace. To be truthful I’m really waiting for the Department of Public Health to not call because they don’t give you a call to let you know you don’t have rabies.
Let me start again. I’m waiting for is the department of public health to not call me to let me know that the bat they caught zooming around my bedroom at five in the morning isn’t rabid. Clear?
I didn’t think so. Let me give this one more shot.
This past Monday I woke to my wife screaming that something was flying around our bedroom. I think I told her to give me a few minutes to adjust to the situation when I heard her give a blood curdling scream followed by the words “It’s a bat, a BAT, IT’S A FUCKING BAT!!!!”
I jumped out of bed, immediately took action and grabbed…a towel. I’m not sure what I was thinking, maybe that I’d throw it over the little bastard as he zipped around the second floor of our home like a barnstormer on amphetamines. Maybe I’d just been finished Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and reached for the most useful tool the book could recommend. Whatever I was thinking my approach didn’t work. Bob the bat, yes I’ve named him Bob, continued zooming around the house and Plan B went into effect.
“Let’s just wait until he calms down,” I said to my wife who then looked at me as if she were seriously considering divorce. We quickly moved to Plan C which involved me bitching about my wife’s overreaction to the subject while I tried to calm our daughter and lay down to fall back asleep. Plan D followed shortly thereafter. We shut the door. I made jokes about living in our room for the next half hour or so while Laura Googled the names of various pest removal companies, called their 24 hour hotlines and discovered that they were not manned on a 24 hour basis.
The problem being out of sight I tried to go back to bed. Laura however did not and neither did my daughter who kept trying to open up the door to “see and pet the bat”. After another half hour of intense Googling Laura discovered that the last thing you should do upon finding a bat inside your home is to lose sight of it. It turns out that bats are tiny, incredibly adept at hiding and can crawl through any space greater than a half an inch.
This last bit of information prompted a quick peek out the door to determine that Bob was no longer in the immediate vicinity and a quick dash to the linen closet for another towel to stuff under the door in the event he wanted to return.
Fast forward three hours and one slightly damaged marriage later. In order to avoid any further contact with Bob, Darcy and I sat on our porch in 95 degree heat and 180% humidity to await Animal Control. Was I concerned with rabies at that point. Not too much. I knew that bats could carry the disease but the likelihood that Bob had contracted the rabies was slim. I was also pretty sure that neither Darcy, Laura and I had been bitten and then shortly discovered that I could be wrong. Apparently bat bites are fairly painless and while I’m somewhat dubious about that particular fact I’m not willing to put myself up to be bitten by a bat to prove anyone wrong.
Fortunately Animal Control showed up preventing me from obsessing over whether or not my daughter or wife or even myself had been bitten by Bob. Our savior(let’s call him Darrell) had at last arrived…and was carrying a giant, empty plastic Big Gulp cup from Seven Eleven, presumably issued by the department of public health. After a thorough search that lasted an entire three minutes Darrell exited the house.
“Well I’m sure it wasn’t for lack of trying,” I responded.
“He’ll probably start flyin’ around again when it gets dark,” Darrell said ignoring my witticism, “Call us then. Our hotline is open 24 hours a day.”
“No one answered when we called at five in the morning,” I said.
“Yeah that happens but you can still call 24 hours a day,” Darrell noted.
I decided not to mention that I could call a lot of people 24 hours a day and not have them pick up the phone or lecture Darrell on the definition and meaning, nay the true spirit of a 24 hour hotline or questioning how my local tax dollars were being spent. I didn’t ask if he were fucking kidding me. It’s not much in the way of maturity I grant you but it does denote some progress on my part.
Skip forward two more hours. Laura had the foresight to book an actual pest control company who would show up “between 9:00 and 12:00” totry to nab Bob. Darcy and I were still in the hammock, on the porch avoiding said bat, rabies and a horrible death. The heat had risen to 110 degrees which was fortunate as it provided me with the opportunity to concern myself with death by heat exposure, dehydration and my lack of foresight in going to a neighbor’s house instead of contracting rabies. I’m kidding of course I obsessed about all of these things.
Having read a few books on the subject rabies is really not a great way to go. There really are few more terrifying deaths. Imagine smoking an ounce of meth, dropping an entire sheet of acid and then being thrown into a room full of fanged clowns who attempt to choke you with their bare hands when both drugs peek and that’s what dying from malaria probably feels like. Of course you also develop an uncontrollable fear of water, a taste for human flesh, and could go through the same ordeal with the aforementioned drugs and zombie clowns ad nauseum before slipping into a coma and finally embracing the sweet relief of death.
The disease has a mortality rate of almost 100% that’s something like 99.99999%. If you begin to show symptoms (violent movement, uncontrolled excitement, fear of water, paralysis, loss of consciousness) you are most likely inevitably and totally fucked. The good news is that the virus moves slowly and, after a bite, a human host has about ten days in which to be administered a vaccine. Unfortunately the injections are remarkably painful and administered through the abdomen. Back in the day when Louis Pasteur and Émile Roux developed the vaccine a patient had to go through a dozen or so injections. These days there are only five. Which is nice.
“Where’d you see it last?” he asked, presumably referring to the bat, as my daughter and I hung dehydrated and listless in our hammock.
“Upstairs,” I mumbled, “Master bedroom. Hall.”
“I’m gonna get that fucker,” he said and then, two minutes later, came out with the bat. “Gotdamn I’m good,” he crowed, “I found ‘em in your girl’s curtain.”
“Nifty,” I responded attempting to not imagine a possible vector of disease in my daughter’s bedroom, “I want to have him tested for rabies.”
“Public Health used to test all of ‘em a few years ago,” Darrel said, “Now they want ya to fill out a form. By the way they only give you a call if he’s got it.”
“Yeah rabies. I’ve been bit twice by bats. Both times they turned up rabid. I wish they’d call if you didn’t have it. So you mind if I check your house out for other points of egress?”
Darrel spent a good twenty minutes climbing on the roofline, surveying the rest of the house before he told me he had to call his boss for a bid. Darcy and I immediately ran to the kitchen and switched off sucking water out of the tap at full bore until we were bloated.
“$1,800 for the whole deal,” he said, “I took pics an everything. You got six, maybe seven places bats could get in but if you let us do the work we’ll take the two hundred buck we charge to catch the bat and apply it to the total.”
I thanked Darrel for his time and sent him on his way.
“I need to talk to my wife to before I spend more than a hundred bucks too buddy.” He said, “Just let me know. I’ll do ya right. I can start tomorrow.”
That night Laura, Darcy and I slept in our bedroom, stuffed a towel under the door which was reminiscent of a more innocent time when I was single and more concerned with things (i.e. smoke) getting out of my bedroom than something getting in. The next morning another pest control representative showed up (I told you my wife was thorough). If memory serves his name was also Darrel. He walked the inside of our home, noted the presence of mice, maybe squirrels, and possibly a Cthulhu or two before going outside. Darrel inspected the outside of our home for a good hour and a half. He was, if nothing else, incredibly thorough.
“You’ve got a bat nest in your eaves on the south corner of the house. They’ve also got a secondary entrance on the southeast side. They’ve got the full run of the perimeter of your house in those eaves. Now I can’t put on an exclusion device until mid August because there might be juveniles in the nest. They pups can’t fly and the parents won’t leave until the kids can leave. If they do leave, the parents that is, and can’t find a way back in then they will search out any possible way to get in. It’ll look like that movie “Birds” only it’ll be bats.”
I nodded sagely, pictured what Laura’s reaction to finding her house covered in bats at five in the morning might be and attempted to keep from gibbering and soiling myself.
“I’ve outlined a plan that will close every gap larger than a half an inch on the outside of your home,” Darrel said as he handed me a form with a figure on the bottom, “It’s got a three year warranty. We can start in a few weeks but around August we get kind of busy.”
“$5,000,” I said when I looked at the total, “that’s dollars right, not pesos.
“That price also includes the warranty and will help you a lot when it comes to squirrels and mice too.”
“I haven’t noticed any squirrels or mice in the home.”
“Most people don’t,” he said.
“So how much do you charge to catch, remove and test a bat?”
I thanked Darrel for his time and sent him on his way, promising that I’d give him a call either way.
“I understand Mr. Black it’s a lot of money.”
It certainly is. Now I’m not one to take my family’s health lightly particularly because I’m the person who’s most likely to come down with an illness or be bit by a rabid bat. Two grand still seems like a bit much to bat proof a home and five thousand dollars would be enough for me to fly my family to Thailand and still have a few grand left over to live like kings until this blog takes off and we decided to move back stateside.
Yes bats can carry rabies. The general estimate is that about 1% of them carry the disease according to the state of Michigan’s website. As a side note apparently almost 6% of the bat population in Michigan is rabid so if you’re the type to be overly concerned about this sort of thing I’d cancel your trip to Mackinac Island this summer.
After rehabbing a home, paying for lead remediation (go ahead and click, the post is informative and entertaining) Laura and I are pretty much broke. It sucks but these sorts of things, sometimes, come down to cost. Am I concerned about my family contracting rabies? Of course I am. I’m also concerned about Hanta virus (spread by mice droppings), Histoplasmosis (spread by bat and bird droppings), West Nile Virus, SARS, Lyme’s Disease and cholera every time I visit the water table at a Children’s Museum just to mention a few of my anxieties when it comes to illness. My scope of other worries to the safety and health of my wife and daughter are even larger. I don’t spend nights awake thinking about a wayward comet or errant asteroid that might end life as we know it on our planet. That would be ridiculous. Still I worry.
I do worry about Darcy getting hit by a car in a parking lot, falling down the stairs or choking on a jelly bean she dropped in a toilet and decided to eat. These sorts of events, however, are much more likely to end in my daughter’s death or trip to an emergency room (aside from the jelly bean in the toilet thing) than catching rabies. Given unlimited wealth I’d pay whatever it took to keep my family safe. Hell I’d hire both of the Darrell’s and give them a 20% tip for their work. Unfortunately I don’t have five grand, or even two, or really more than a few hundred bucks for the next time a bat decides to get lost and tool around my home in the wee hours of the morning.
The good news is that most bats with rabies exhibit symptoms. They pop out during the day, flip around on the ground and act generally “unbatlike”. Five grand also covers a lot of bat removals when it comes down to it. About 25 or so if my mathematical faculties are still intact but one that presents a much more palatable financial figure. For better or worse I’ve started thinking of it as an installment plan on bat containment rather than bat prevention until you, dear reader, begin sending me loads of money. It’s really all your fault now that I think about it so if you don’t hear from me in a few months I hope you sleep well knowing that your frugal nature has probably condemned me or my family to a horrible death. Now if you’ll please excuse me I’m waiting up in the hopes that I don’t receive a call from the Department of Public Health.
Postscript: It turns out that if you call the Department of Public Health they will give you a call back to let you know if the bat caught in your house wasn’t rabid and that you and your family members can forgo numerous painful and expensive injections. I discovered today that Bob, God rest his soul, did not carry rabies. On a related note I discovered a spider in a comforter this morning while I was doing laundry. I’m not saying it was a Brown Recluse but it was most definitely brown and had an air of solipsism about it.