The Relevance of Rabies to Today's Military
ARMY MEDICAL DEPT CENTER AND SCHOOL FORT SAM HOUSTON TX
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A 24-year-old Army Specialist was assigned as a cook at Combat Base Chamkani, Paktia Province, Afghanistan, from May 2010 to May 2011. He was a known animal enthusiast and had been caring for unauthorized dogs in his units area, in spite of General Order Number 1 which forbade the keeping of animals in theater. Feral dogs have been a perennial issue throughout the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan, as they are attracted to the presence of food waste at dump sites around the bases. During an attempt to break up a dog fight between one of the local unauthorized dogs and a feral dog, the Specialist was bitten on the hand. According to reports, the Specialist told his mother that he was ordered to shoot the feral dog and have it sent for rabies testing. It has also been reported that a rabies vaccine series was initiated, but discontinued because the vaccine had expired. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that any animal was tested for rabies and no record of medical treatment being sought or given. The Specialist left Afghanistan in May 2011 with his unit for Germany. He later reported to his new assignment at Fort Drum, New York, in August 2011. By this time, he had started to exhibit neurologic symptoms. He complained of a tingling pain radiating down his arm on August 14, and was treated for tendonitis at a civilian hospital. He reportedly had trouble drinking on August 17 and collapsed at work on August 19, again seeking treatment at a civilian hospital. At this point, it was learned that he had received the dog bite in Afghanistan. This history and the symptoms led to the suspicion of rabies, which triggered specific testing at Wadsworth Center, the New York State Department of Healths public health laboratory.
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