Mom, Your Intuition is Lousy!

You know what they say: “Mama knows best.” But, how many things did our moms tell us as children that weren’t true, yet we listened anyway?

No swimming an hour after you eat! Don’t swallow watermelon seeds, or a watermelon will grow in your tummy! Stop cracking your knuckles, you’ll get arthritis! Don’t shave your legs, or the hair will grow back thick and black!

You might see a pattern here. Throughout the SIOW blog, you’ll see that our classmates have disproven mostly all of these myths. We realized that the things we were told are outrageous and decided to research them ourselves.

I have a unique situation that I am sure no one on the blog has researched. While your moms are telling you the classic “mom myths,” my mom recently hit me with the craziest one yet:

“Rachel, if you were in the same room as a bat, you have rabies.”

You’re probably wondering why my mom would even tell me this. On the second week of school, I was studying in a lounge when suddenly a bat flew out of the fireplace. The bat flew all around the room, but didn’t touch me or come anywhere near me. The whole thing was so crazy that I just had to call my mom and tell her. Big mistake.

My mom called up her nurse friend, and her nurse friend insisted that I go get a rabies shot. Even though I told my mom that the bat didn’t touch me, she would not leave me alone until I promised that I’d at least call the advice nurse.

rabies<— (my mom harassing me via Facebook messenger)

The “Mom” Hypothesis is that I contracted rabies from being in the same room as a bat.

I will now disprove this:

Before all else, it is important to note the fact that rabies is almost always spread through a bite. In very rare occurrences, the virus can be spread through infected saliva travelling to open wounds, eyes, or our mouths. However, considering I was completely conscious during the bat incident, I am positive that neither of these things occurred. But, as always in science, I have to prove myself through strong data and research. So, here’s the overkill:

In an experiment conducted by Unidad de Investigación Medica en Inmunologia, fourteen bats injected with a variant of rabies were evaluated through their saliva. The experimenters evaluated surviving bats every other day for a month, then weekly for the next two months, once one year later, and once one year after that. They found that rabies was not found in any of the eleven bats that died early on from the experiments. In the three surviving bats, rabies was detected only once early on and further salivary excretions were impossible—therefore, they were not carriers. The study’s conclusions did not show that bats are asymptomatic carriers of rabies.

In addition to the study I found, I also came across some currently-held beliefs in today’s world regarding bats.

First, most bats don’t even have rabies. In fact, among the bats that were sent into testing for specific suspicion of rabies, only 6% actually had the disease. Less than half of 1% of all bats contract rabies.

Second, there are typically only 1 or 2 cases of rabies in humans annually in the USA. Had my mom known this, she may have not assumed that I was ‘the chosen one.’

Worldwide, out of 300,000 rabies deaths per year, 99% of these deaths are contracted from rabid dogs, not rabid bats. I thought this fact was fascinating because of how comfortable our society is with dogs. Whether a dog is yours or not, your first instinct is to go pet it. That means you too, mom.

The most important message I found is that healthcare professionals and media personnel are often wrong about rabies and bats. Media distorts stories regarding cases of rabies, causing people like my mom to automatically assume that her daughter is rabid after she watches the news or reads an article online.

In conclusion, as we know, I do not have rabies from being in the same room as a bat. Even if the bat had bitten me, there would have been less than a one percent chance that I would’ve contracted rabies. Even in that case, I could get a rabies shot to take preventative measures. I decided to go in-depth on this topic to prove the point that we cannot trust eminent people in science. We also have lousy intuition. My mom thought I needed a rabies shot just because she confirmed her worries with a certified nurse. Had I not researched bats, I may have even gotten the shot because my mom told me to. Thanks for saving me from unnecessary mom drama, science.


Rabies info

Research explanation

Research primary source

2 thoughts on “Mom, Your Intuition is Lousy!

  1. John Carney

    Hey Rachel this blog was really good and entertaining. I totally agree with a lot of the points you made throughout the blog. Our Professor Andrew Reed even discussed this topic about how each generation is smarter than the next due to more discoveries and research. Although both of my parents are very bright, they have told me things in the past that they have learned growing up that we have discovered not to be true. Until this day i still believed that cracking your knuckles may cause arthritis in the future because thats what i was told. You cant always believe what you hear because many of these myths are just beliefs that have been brought up and taught from generation to generation. I was researching about the top misconceptions and beliefs because i was curious to see what else i have misunderstood or believed so if you are interested just click the link that follows and you can find out too!

  2. Alyssa Marie Frey

    Hi Rachel! I really enjoyed reading your post, it was humorous while being very factual and interesting! I found it different than any other blog I have read and I loved how your personal experience made the blog unique. You provided great experiments to show how bats don’t really give you rabies just from being near you, but I think to improve your blog you could include some key things we learned about in class. A friend of mine was attacked by a rabid cat once which was super terrifying for him and he had to get several shots because of it. Rabies is definitely nothing to joke about, but as you said it takes more than just being near an animal with rabies to contract it. I found this interesting site that explains rabies in detail and the different creatures than can carry rabies.

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