WAUWATOSA, Wis. – A teenager who became the first person known to survive rabies without a vaccination went home Saturday after nearly 11 weeks in the hospital, officials said.
Jeanna Giese, 15, was infected when a bat bit her at church in September but she did not immediately seek treatment. She began showing symptoms of rabies in mid-October.
“My biggest goal when this started, when I walked through those doors downstairs, was to someday take my daughter through those doors back out, and today that gets to happen,” Giese’s father, John Giese, said Saturday before the family left the hospital.
A team of physicians at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin gambled on an experimental treatment and induced a coma as part of efforts to stave off the usually fatal infection.
Only five people besides Giese are known to have survived the rabies virus after the onset of symptoms. But unlike Giese, they had either been vaccinated or had received a series of rabies vaccine shots before showing symptoms.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it is re-evaluating its approach to human rabies because of the results.
In recent weeks, Giese has worked to regain her weight, strength and coordination, although she will need physical and occupational therapy.
One of Giese’s doctors, Rodney Willoughby, said the girl’s treatment must be duplicated in another person before it can be credited as a rabies treatment.
“I don’t recommend you do stuff before you try them on animals but in this case we didn’t have time,” he said. “This was stitched together in four hours, discussed in an hour. It just turned out we were very lucky. Jeanna was very lucky.”