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Feb 11 2017
by Eliana Tallarida

That One Time I Almost Got Rabies During Winter Break In Bali

By Eliana Tallarida - Feb 11 2017
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If you clicked on this article, you probably are either A) looking for a way to procrastinate, B) really curious how I managed to accidentally almost get a fatal disease over winter break or C) all of the above. Well, let me first start off by saying that no feral dogs were harmed in the making of this story — only a very clumsy college student.

This winter break, my family and I headed to Bali, Indonesia and Hong Kong, China for a whirlwind vacation that actually ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. From endless amounts of chicken satay and fried rice to monkeys climbing up my arm for a banana, my break ended up being more amazing than I ever could have imagined. That being said, I have long lived by the idea that I have the worst luck in the world and being in Bali was no exception.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve when my family and the family we were traveling with went to a nearby hotel to celebrate a crazy trip and an even crazier year. On the way back from the hotel after the sun set, I was having the time of my life and was not really paying attention to the area around me. I do not remember seeing the feral dog on a leash tied to a nearby fence, but that was probably because I still swear to this day it just popped up out of the shadows. According to my sister, the dog lunged at me and tried to bite my ankle. I still am not sure if it stepped on me or bit me, but long story short, the bite/claw drew blood and the next thing I knew, a doctor was plunging a sort-of large amount of medicine into my left arm. 

I am not a fan of needles and have only met one person who has told me that they like getting shots. Fun fact: if you almost or do get rabies, you will then have to get a series of five shots. Otherwise, as my Grandma liked to tell me, untreated rabies will be completely fatal after two months. Thanks, Grandma. 

Anyway, I had two shots in Bali, one in Hong Kong and then got the other shots when I arrived in Boston less than a week later for school. Sounds easy and straightforward right? No. 

In Boston, I called the Boston Health Commission to ask where one could get a rabies vaccination and I was told I had to go to the ER because in America, unlike in Asia, getting bit by a feral dog is a surprisingly rare occurrence. So, two of my friends escorted me to Brigham and Women's Hospital where I spent six hours on a very snowy Friday waiting to get my vitals taken and waiting for the Clinical Disease Department to tell me whether they thought I needed to restart my vaccinations. After that, I finally I got my shots.

I had to restart the vaccination series because the U.S. doctors could not be sure that I had all the right vaccinations, which meant more needles so I was obviously ecstatic. I even got a bonus shot that ended up being three shots each with 3cc of medicine to my backside (most shots are usually about 1cc — the ones that are more than that hurt a lot). 

As my friends back home like to say, this whole experience helped me end 2016 with a bang. I am officially rabies free with about nine shots of vaccination medication running through my blood, but other than that, I am just a normal college freshman braving out the Boston winter. 

 Lead Image Credit: Ellie Tallarida

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