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An Empty Nester Vacation and an Unexpected Dog Bite

With their son about to go off to college, Mr. Steve Newhouse and his wife, Ms. Gina Sanders, began to plan for a trip to Bhutan and China. "We were about to be empty nesters, and we had always wanted to go to Asia," he explains. Before leaving, Mr. Newhouse had met with Dr. Henry Murray, co-founder of the Weill Cornell Travel Clinic, to ensure that he received any necessary pre-travel vaccines. All was in order, but the best laid plans were sidelined by something completely unexpected – a dog bite.

It was the second day of their trip when Mr. Newhouse and his wife went out to have lunch at a restaurant in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. As they were walking towards the restaurant, Mr. Newhouse had not seen the Tibetan Mastiff that was lying out front. He accidentally stepped on the dog and it swiftly bit him on the thigh. Although the bite had created a wound, it, thankfully, was not a bite that required stitches. However, there is always the possibility of acquiring rabies after being bitten by a stray dog. Rabies, a viral infection that affects the central nervous system and is fatal once symptoms develop, is transmitted via saliva if a person is bitten by a rabid animal such as a dog, cat, monkey, or bat. Incubation time for rabies infection to manifest is from one week to one year, or rarely longer, and initial symptoms may include fever, sore throat, stiff muscles, headache, nausea, and itching or tingling at the site of the bite. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that rabies causes tens of thousands of deaths every year, mostly in Asia and Africa.

Dr. Henry Murray and Mr. Steve Newhouse

Mr. Newhouse went to the local hospital in Thimphu, a town that is filled with stray dogs. He was given one shot at the hospital, but he noticed that it was not as painful as he had been led to believe. "I knew I was in a very dangerous situation, and I called Dr. Murray right after I left the hospital," says Mr. Newhouse. Dr. Murray informed him that the Weill Cornell rabies protocol had not been followed. Mr. Newhouse traveled to Bangkok the next day and went to Bangkok Nursing Hospital (BNH). There he was given the appropriate series of shots, including one delivered directly into the wound. "This time there was no question that it was the legendary painful treatment," Mr. Newhouse said.

"When you are far from home, in shock, and facing a potentially fatal illness, it was incredibly reassuring to have a physician like Dr. Murray on the other end of the phone," says Mr. Newhouse, "I was very glad to have prepared for my trip through the Weill Cornell Travel Clinic, and to be under Dr. Murray's care in case an emergency happened."

In between rabies shots at the Bangkok Nursing Hospital, the couple was able to travel to China and complete a safe and enjoyable journey.