When DeDe Phillips saw a bobcat in her front yard in Hart County, Georgia, she wasn't alarmed, taking a picture of the unusual visitor instead of fleeing. Unfortunately, the Lynx rufus, which can grow to a weight of 18 kilograms (40 pounds) was rabid, turning an animal that will not normally attack adult humans without provocation into something dangerous.
“The cat took two steps and was on top of me … It came for my face,” Phillips told the Athens Banner-Herald. Clearly the bobcat couldn't read, however. Phillips had just finished putting a bumper sticker on her truck that reads, “Women who behave seldom make history,” which might have warned a literary feline that Phillips is a force to be reckoned with. “I thought, ‘not today,’” she said, “There was no way I was going to die.”
Phillips' father-in-law once trapped bobcats, so she knew the animals' attack strategy. “They go for your jugular ... because when they can get the vein you’re dead in a couple of minutes,” she said.
Although the rabid creature managed to draw blood from Phillips' hand and face that required subsequent treatment for rabies, Phillips got her hands to its throat and throttled it.
Most people's natural reaction under such circumstances would be to scream for help, but Phillips waited until she had the animal subdued, because her 5-year-old granddaughter was inside the house. Phillips feared if she called out, her granddaughter would come to see what the problem was, putting herself in danger.
Once her attacker was still, she kept her grip in case it was only stunned and called for assistance. On arriving, her son wanted to shoot the cat, but Phillips told him she was too close, so instead he stabbed it repeatedly to make sure it was dead.
Phillips drove herself to hospital, and the next day the bobcat was confirmed to have been rabid. This being America, the rabies shots alone have cost Phillips, who is uninsured, $10,000, and she also has healthcare expenses for her broken finger and claw wounds to multiple parts of her body. Fortunately, a crowdfunding campaign to pay for her medical expenses has started well.
The rabies virus causes inflammation of the brain of mammals, leading to aggression and fear of water. The virus is spread through saliva, so it has evolved to inspire attacks in infected animals, increasing the chance of a bite that will cause transmission.
Worldwide, thousands of people die each year from rabies, mostly from dog bites. In North America, vaccination of dogs has largely eliminated this route (although of course there is a doggy anti-vaxx movement gaining traction, it's 2018 after all), so the main danger is wild animals.
The rabies vaccine was one of the first invented and when given as quickly as DeDe Phillips got it, almost always prevents infection.
[H/T: The Guardian]