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Rabies miracle? California girl survives dread disease without vaccine

Precious Reynolds beat rabies without vaccines KOVR-TV

(CBS/AP) "She is truly a fighter." That's what doctors are saying about the little girl who survived rabies without a vaccine, the third person in the U.S. to do so.

Her name, fittingly, is Precious.

Precious Reynolds, 8, of Willow Creek, Calif., was treated by pediatricians at the University of California Davis Children's Hospital in coordination with federal and California health officials, the hospital said in a statement.

She contracted the disease in April, most likely from a feral cat outside her elementary school.

Tests in May revealed she had rabies after Precious's grandmother took her to the doctor because of flu-like symptoms. Her doctors were shocked that they found rabies.

"Rabies was not on my list," Dr. Theresa Vlautin, her pediatrician at Children's Hospital, told the Sacramento Bee. "It's very, very rare to get rabies in a human - there about 30 cases in the world."

By then it was too late to give her the necessary vaccinations that follow animal bites and keep humans from developing symptoms. Nurses at the hospital thought her survival chances were slim, when she arrived at the pediatric intensive care unit.

"None of us thought she would leave the PICU," Krystle Realyvasquez, a nurse who cared for Precious, said in the statement. "When she did it was unbelievable."

The first such survivor - Jeanna Giese of Wisconsin - contracted the infection when she was bitten by a bat in 2004 when she was 14. Giese graduated from college last month.

Doctors followed Giese's treatment protocol with Precious, placing her in a drug-induced coma as she received anti-viral medication. She spent two weeks in intensive care undergoing the treatments, and immediately showed that her immune system was strong. She was then moved to the hospital's general pediatric unit, where she remained Sunday.

"From the very beginning, Precious had a very rapid, robust immune response to her infection, which is a significant contributor to why she survived," Dr. Jean Wiedeman, leader of the pediatric team, said.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, causing fever, headache, and weakness. As the disease progresses, patients experience insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, hallucinations, agitation, difficulty swallowing, an increase in saliva, and within days - they can die. There were only four cases of rabies in the U.S. in 2009

The CDC has more on rabies.

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