Rabid in Cuba

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – There’s a cat that comes to sleep in my building lately. It’s white and grey, with a big head, and it almost always has its face covered in scratches. I baptized him “El Cabezon” (big head). Not only does it sleep, it also meows strangely. Sometimes, I give it food and water. Although I suspect it eats elsewhere, because he barely touches the food.

When I gained a little more trust, I’d stroke his head. One morning, I touched his head and he jumped at one of my ankles, biting me. A little bit of blood came from the wound, and he left a few scratches on my ankle too. I could barely react. It all happened so fast.

The next day, I decided to go to the polyclinic and see a doctor to tell them what had happened. After seeing me, he took his cellphone and made a call. In a few minutes, the clinic’s assistant manager came to ask me some questions. Was the animal mine or a stray? If that was the case, I’d have to stay under observation for ten days to make sure I wasn’t infected with rabies.

There are swarms of animals out on the street right now, as lots of people are leaving the country and leaving them helpless, in danger of being run over by a car, stoned by children; or catching some disease if they eat garbage. It’s an everyday mess that few worry about, which is only solved with the great efforts of animal defenders and animal rights activists, who organize free vaccination and sterilization campaigns.

The assistant manager explained that I’d need to be vaccinated against rabies, because it’s a disease with a long incubation period, even years. The treatment involves five doses, distributed in three weeks. I was surprised at first because I thought it would only be the one vaccine. Then, I regretted it because I don’t like needles so much.

Keeping the story short, there were days I’d forget to go. Then, the assistant manager called me to tell me off. I told him that I’d seen the cat frequently, and I didn’t have any symptoms of rabies. Result: vaccinated for no reason.

There is one fact that I find particularly interesting, and this is that the polyclinic can be an unproductive place for other matters. I’ll explain. I’ve been to the doctor’s office in my neighborhood twice, and I’ve heard the doctor say that there are problems with exams being carried out there. They don’t know whether it’s because of improper handling or expired reagents.

This doctor tells all his patients to do their bloodwork at the hospital, because the results can be modified at the polyclinic.

Animals don’t transmit rabies in Cuba, it’s the rabid feeling we have when we experience the inefficiency of public services. The lack of hygiene, indifference. You just have to see a garbage dump on every corner, in every neighborhood. Plus, things are going from bad to worse.

But that cat isn’t bothered by any of this. He comes to sleep in my building every now and then.

Read more from the diary of Irina Pino here.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

2 thoughts on “Rabid in Cuba

  • During my last visit to Cuba recently, I was struck by the amount of garbage left on street corners. Not surprisingly, in the neighborhood of Siboney, an upper-class enclave very near the Marina Hemingway, there was little to no garbage anywhere on those tree-lined streets with large houses set back by gardens and garages. But in Central Habana, just blocks away from the vaunted Hotel Nacional, some streets were nearly blockaded by the garbage left to rot on the streets. It was also obvious that the garbage had been there a while because of the smell. I couldn’t help but notice the abandoned dogs and cats that were surviving from the garbage piles. It was very sad and scary at the same time. I can totally relate to the writer’s post. I wanted to help these “callajeros,” but there are so many of them. I didn’t even think about what could have happened if I had been bitten. Such a sad situation.

  • thank you for posting

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