In response to the only member of the military to die of rabies since 1967 in the Vietnam war, the U.S. Army with the Center for Disease Control has launched an educational campaign alerting soldiers to the importance of having animal bites treated for rabies.
Stars and Stripes has more:
In September, the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center released a study reporting that service members sustained 20,522 animal bites from January 2001 to December 2010, or about 40 per week. Most were bitten in the United States, where rabies is rare.
Of the 643 troops bitten in Iraq or Afghanistan, only 117 received rabies vaccines, according to the report.
The report notes that some of those bites may have come from military working dogs, which are vaccinated against rabies. The report also stated that the military’s bite statistics are undoubtedly underestimated, since minor bites often go unreported.
Spc. Kevin Shumaker, 24, was bit by a stray dog while in Afghanistan, and Stripes reports he told his parents he had received three of the six rabies shots but not the final three because they were expired.
Shumaker died eight months after the bite. Rabies, according to the National Institute of Health, has an average three to seven week incubation period, during which little to no symptoms may be experienced, but incubation could take as long as seven years. NIH states that once symptoms become apparent the person rarely survives, usually undergoing respiratory failure within seven days; there is no treatment for rabies patients when exhibit symptoms.
According to NIH, those who have been bit by an animals should contact their doctor right away and will being shots of the vaccine over month; most patients also receive human rabies immunoglobulin.