On my first full day in Transylvania, I was bitten by a dog. As you can imagine, that affected the rest of my trip.
Romania has a dog problem that started in the 1980s due to the former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu’s urbanization strategies. A 2013 article in The Independent states that in Bucharest alone, there are more than 60,000 stray dogs. The article also shares the following statistic: “More than 6,000 people were bitten – 1,000 of them children – in the first four months of 2013 in Bucharest…”
And that’s just Bucharest. I was in Sighișoara when a dog bit me. The bite to my left ankle was unprovoked and unforeseen. While not ferocious, it wasn’t friendly either.
I was bleeding, and the status of the dog—stray or not, vaccinated or not—was unclear, so that meant undergoing rabies prevention treatment. It meant a visit to the hospital that night for a tetanus shot, a five-day antibiotics prescription, and a five-shot rabies regimen prescription. It meant a visit the next morning to the same hospital for my first shot and a visit three days later to a different Romanian hospital (because I was in a different city) for my second shot.
It also meant getting critical medical treatment in an unfamiliar country and, in most situations, by people who didn’t speak English. Not a situation I’d like to repeat. Fortunately, I was able to get the remaining three shots in Hungary by physicians who speak English.
I’ve learned a lot about rabies in the meantime. According to the World Health Organization, “Rabies is one of the oldest diseases known to mankind. There is still no treatment available once a patient develops the symptoms of rabies. … Human rabies caused by the classical rabies virus continues to be almost 100% fatal, with no specific treatment available anywhere in the world.” If you contract rabies, symptoms typically appear within 1-3 months, and you die soon afterwards.
There are three shot schedules for rabies. I believe mine was the most standard: day 0, 3, 7, 14, 28. Shots are now given in the upper arm, and the latest vaccines are more advanced. Side effects vary depending on the person, but are said to be less harsh than in the past. I received my first shot on July 20 and my last one on August 17. The first two shots were easy. The third shot brought many difficult side effects. Fortunately, I experienced only minor side effects after the fourth shot and almost none after the final shot.
Did I enjoy my trip? There were some good moments. I’ll share those later. Am I glad I went? I’m not sure. I haven’t finished processing everything yet. I figure I need at least 1-3 months.