Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rabies Testing & Quarantine

Today, VBB Central was closed down so our doctors could have a CE day. Continuing education is a valuable part of veterinary practice - it's how we keep up with what's going on in our profession medically, administratively, and so on. I usually enjoy my CE days a lot, although of course some lectures (and lecturers) are better than others!

Today, one of the talks was on the subject of rabies testing and quarantine, and rules applicable in various states and counties. The speaker was a veterinarian from her state's Department of Agriculture, and she was very dynamic and knowledgeable. Obviously the material she was working with was what it was - the nuts and bolts of vaccine, quarantine, and testing requirements are not very sexy - but nonetheless, she kept me interested the entire time. She even managed to gracefully handle the incessant "point of order" type questioning from the one guy in the back, who always has to ask a stream of arcane academic questions that are irrelevant to anyone living in the real world.

Here's the thing - dedicated readers of this site know that one thing most veterinarians have in common is that "nothing surprises us anymore." Except, you know, when the most stupid or ridiculous thing imaginable suddenly happens and it shocks the hell out of you, and you think "man, I THOUGHT I had seen it all, but I guess I was wrong." Then you think there's nothing left to surprise you - until it happens again.


This veterinarian was talking about how to properly submit samples for testing at the state diagnostic testing laboratories. Proper refrigeration is key, in case you are wondering, and she also recommends making sure everything is sealed well to avoid leakage and that identifying paperwork is enclosed, properly filled out, and in its own separate waterproof bag. There are various approved couriers, and instructions on how to deliver the samples without using a courier were also provided. She was very thorough. Then she got to the part about properly preparing the samples.

Well, ok, easy enough, right? You're either submitting a brain that has been removed from a head, or a head that has been removed from a body, or in the case of a very small patient (under 3 lbs) an entire body. She did take care to remind us that they only want mammalian samples. OK, I can see how someone might think it necessary to submit say a bird or something, if perhaps a pet chicken went batshit crazy and started attacking inanimate objects or whatever. So it makes sense she would remind us not to do that. Then she reminded us that they want only non-living samples. I am pleased to report that she did not provide us with an example of a living sample they had received in error.

So far so good, you're probably thinking. Where's the surprise? Well - apparently last year, she was going through the reports sent to her office from the state diagnostic testing laboratory, and was disconcerted to see that a particular sample had been "unable to be tested." She read the complete report and it said that the reason the sample could not be tested was because despite the fact that it had been labelled as a "bat," it was in fact not a bat but rather a banana peel.

I'll let that sink in for a minute.

It was not a bat, but rather a banana peel.

I am not sure how one makes that mistake, let alone how someone who mistakes a banana peel for a bat is then competent to package the banana peel up with the appropriate paperwork and submit it through the proper channels for delivery to the state rabies diagnostic testing laboratory. It kinda makes my head spin.

I did take the time this afternoon, after getting home from the CE, to put together this teaching slide for my own talks:

Feel free to use that yourself if you find it helpful. This is apparently something people need help with out there.


  1. Replies
    1. Well if so, I think they should send the banana to the USDA for rabies testing too!

  2. There should be a good "Fruit Bat" joke in there.

  3. Some moron confused a very old banana peel with a very dead and flat bat.

  4. I think the person who submitted the sample probably has rabies themselves

  5. Didn't ever notice that thing, they quite resemble with each other.
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