A mouse in the house?

The picture of innocence, no?

As you know, I’ve been in transit for a few months now looking for a place to settle and, with any luck, relocate Howling Duck Ranch in good time. Recently, I was sleeping/camping out on the living room floor of a friend’s place in the country near Okotoks, AB, when I was rudely awoken during the night with the thought, “Something just bit me.”

I laid there wondering for a moment if I’d dreamed it or not. “Surely not!” I thought as I lay there pondering the options. I closed my eyes to go back to sleep. A second later I felt a trickle of wetness on my finger with my thumb. I got up and went to view my finger by the paradise-of-the-bathroom-light. Sure enough, there were two little teeth marks, broken skin, and blood trickling from my left hand third finger. I washed it off as best I could (it actually bled like small faucet). I then applied polysporin and went back to bed and thought nothing more of the event–for a week.

Fast forward and I’m now in Grande Prairie visiting a friend (who happens to be a vet) that I’m going to house sit for. As we talk about all the things that need doing on the farm,  I relay the ‘bite-in-the-night’ incident to him. His stride and thought train come to an immediate halt: “Do you know what bit you?”


“Are you sure it wasn’t a bat?”


“Have you been to public health to see what they say?”


“Well my god, you’d better get there right now if you can!”

Really, why?

“Because you don’t know what bit you.”


“Well, it is not usual for mice to bite people in their sleep. That is the modus operandi of bats.”

Um… so?

“Well, the issue is that bats carry rabies. In fact, all the cases of rabies in humans in North America were caused by bats biting people in their sleep. That’s how people die. They don’t know what bit them. Most don’t even know they were bit and until they show up with symptoms. But then it’s too late.”

How nice.

Seriously, this could have bit me?

Being a vet, he was up on his ‘things-that-go-bit-in-the-night’ knowledge. In fact he is THE vet for the region that people turn to in cases of rabid animals–you know, the one who picks up the de-headed dogs and bats and performs the tell-tale autopsies on the brains. The furrow in his brow, coupled with the intensity with which he found the public health contact information for me, convinced me I should perhaps go get looked at in the morning.

The following morning I called the nurse line. After about 20 minutes of intense questioning and the nurse telling me more than I wanted to know about the possible dire outcomes, she concluded, that yes, I should definitely see someone.

Enter public health. I relayed the story to the nurse who relayed the story to the Medical Health Officer who, without letting her finish, issued the rabies immunoglobulin and vaccine. They were not going to take any chances. He echoed my vet friend in saying that it is unusual for mice to bite people in their sleep but not unusual for bats to perform such antics.

He dispatched the order. Immediately not one, but several nurses leaped into action. “Seventeen years on the job and you’re my first rabies case,” the nurse said to me before  admonishing me to the waiting room. One of them came to discuss the pros and cons of the immunoglobulin, while several others went behind closed doors to assist the first nurse with the detailed calculations. “We want to get the dose right,” one of them said when she surfaced long enough to weigh me. “It’s extremely important because we have to give you such a high dosage.”

Calculations complete and triple or quadruple checked, I was escorted back into the office.

“Here is the pamphlet with all the contraindications. I’ll just read you the potential side effects…”

“Oh how about we get ‘er done.” I interrupted her, “I really don’t have a choice and believe me, you really don’t need me any more paranoid than I already am!”

“OK. Are you going to faint? Like, can you handle needles OK?”

She turned to prepare the ingredients. When she turned back towards me she was wielding the largest needle I’d ever seen–it was Darth Vadars light saber, replete with sound effects–brummmmmmm.

I had those exact thoughts and feelings myself!

“I’m sorry, but they have to be big to get deep into the muscle,” she explained, responding no doubt, to the look of horror on my face.

I was sitting in my underwear and tank top and about to become a human pin cushion. “This is going to hurt because it is really thick liquid and it takes time to get it into you,” she said as she plunged the first needle into my leg and held it tight, slowly releasing the immunoglobulin and repeating “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Six needles later–two in each thigh and one in each shoulder, plus a tetanus shot to the left shoulder for good measure–and I was good to go.

Before pulling on my jeans I turned to her and said, “You sure you don’t have anything for my calves? They feel left out.”

She gave me the shot schedule and told me who to see the next time I was in. I was going to be a regular visitor to the Public Health over the next six weeks so I might as well get on a first name basis with everyone. The shots left me exhausted each time. By the end of each day I felt tired and head-achy. Overall, in light of the possible horrific side effects, I’m doing well. I have more or less come through the ordeal unscathed.

The good news is, now, I really can run with the wolves with abandon!


Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Politicking with predators

20 responses to “A mouse in the house?

  1. K

    A woman after my own heart, i wouldn’t have gone to hospital either! Better safe than sorry though.

  2. Wow, what an adventure! And what an education for all of us. I would have never thought about it being a bat bite… Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. My gosh, months I have not read anything from you and then the drama…

    Yes, better safe than dead! And next time I think something bites me in my sleep, I’ll be remembering this occasion.

    And yeah for good friends and the opportunity to share your story with the vet to begin with… *shudder* to know how it would have, could have turned out without that small exchange of words.

  4. ZowEEE! I will keep your story in mind, oh say, forever. Unexplained night-time bites will send me straight to an emergency room.

    So as I understand it, you really don’t know whether you were exposed or not, yes? Does that mean there’s no way to test whether you were infected in the first place? I figure if they’re planning on sticking you for six weeks to come that they can’t rule it out. I mean, inject first and test later makes sense with a disease this serious. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what they’re doing.

    Poor you! Be brave.

    • Hi Kate,

      The scary thing is this, many people don’t even know they were bitten by a bat if it occurs during their sleep! The last victim in Canada was a little boy who’s parents had no idea what was wrong with him until he started exhibiting symptoms of rabies. Needless to say he suffered an excruciating, ugly death as once the symptoms present it is too late for the prophylaxis to work. They believe he was bitten by a bat.

      I believe they can test for rabies. If they have the animal that bit you then it can be sent away to a lab for testing, and they can test you for exposure (I believe, but am not entirely certain). However, given that I did not know what bit me, I had waited over a week to do anything about it (time is of the essence when dealing with this disease), and it is the modus operandi of bats, they were going to take no chances. To test would have taken up much more time that, if I had been exposed, we didn’t have.

      The good news is that I’m handling the series well (with relatively few side effects) and I can safely sleep outside!


  5. That’s really too bad, what a crummy thing to endure…all those shots. My wife must never see this post, we have so many bats around our house, I will never get her to venture out in the dark again.

  6. Nasty. That majorly sucks.

  7. Katherine Laws

    Ouch! When I was in 4th grade, I had to get rabie shots too because I brought home a rabid bat with my brother and one of his friends.

    I just found your blog by accident. Seems awesome!

  8. workingcollies

    Yeeks, sorry to hear, I’ve heard those shots are unpleasant! I did get bitten by a mouse once in my bed-bit my big toe and woke me up, and appeared out from under the covers a minute later, so I knew who was the culprit. Good luck with the rest of the shots- at least it will be nice to know you have immunity going forward, for any future adventures you might lead!

  9. Doris Maertz

    My son had a mouse bite his finger, he reflexively closed his hand on it and threw it. You could see the teeth marks on his skin, but it didn’t get deep enough to access blood. Never went to the doc, never got shots, never had a problem.
    Juliette de Bairacli Levy wrote in a book about a dog that she was boarding came down with rabies. It died, but two of her own that she had had on a raw food diet survived. Because she didn’t know at the time it was rabies, she treated them as if they were poisoned. Speaks to me of how important good nutrition is.

  10. Yeah, I’m pretty much of the same mind. I’ll let a lot of injuries go, but if there’s any doubt … ya know. So sorry to hear about this! But now you know you’re good, and safe. =)

  11. Robin

    Oh my gosh! You have incredible courage. I can’t imagine remaining upright after one of those shots. I’m glad it’s not as bad as it could have been.

    Did I ever tell you that my oldest daughter is Kristin and my husband is Steve? 😀

    Hang in there tough lady!

  12. Hope you are still OK…am sending you many many good wishes across the miles!

  13. Goodness, I’m glad you’re okay. I somehow have missed your blog since your “calf fries” blog.

    Question: Are there even bats in Alberta?
    Sorry you have to endure the round of shots. Hang in there.

  14. Sorry, me again. I looked it up and yes, there are bats in Alberta.

  15. Rose

    We have bats in the desert. Also mice can carry rabies – less likely but they do. If you want to scare yourself check out the rabies videos on utube:(

    Loving your blog.

  16. Pingback: A mouse in the house? | KitchenAmmo.com

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