Blog | Thursday, October 29, 2009

The fact that it is almost Halloween is purely coincidental.

At an IDSA session on "What's hot in infectious disease," John Bartlett, MD, updated us on the risks of bat bites. Apparently (surprising as this sounds), it's easy to be bitten by a bat without noticing, and a fair number of bats are rabid.

Therefore, standard protocol (at least in Canada, I'm not sure if this also applies to the U.S.) was "If you wake up and see a bat in the bedroom, you should be considered for rabies prophylaxis." Some Canadian researchers were suspicious of the cost-effectiveness of this recommendation, so they did a study of 36,000 people. They asked how many of them had either had contact with a bat or seen one in a bedroom, and then calculated the cost of providing rabies prophylaxis.

Turns out that just the therapy--not even counting clinician time--would cost $2 billion per rabies case prevented if you treated all the bedroom encounters, and $48 million each if you treated just the people who had contact. Canadian policy was revised based on these calculations, and the results appear to confirm the projections, Dr. Bartlett said. "The epidemic of rabies has not been found."