View Full Version : Rabid dog bite in Afghanistan kills U.S. soldier

10-27-2011, 18:32
Saw a case in El Sal back in the 80s - wasn't pretty.

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- Had Army Spc. Kevin Shumaker died from a mortar blast or insurgent fire while serving in Afghanistan, that would be devastating but fathomable. Instead, the decorated 24-year-old from Livermore was dealt a fatal blow in January while breaking up, of all things, a dogfight at his remote Afghanistan base.

Eight months after a stray dog bit his hand, Shumaker died from rabies in a New York hospital, the only death this year in the United States from the rare and very treatable disease. Shumaker told his parents he was treated for rabies at the base, but the series of injections was not completed.

His family members, who live in Castro Valley, want answers from the Army as to how Shumaker died from such a preventable disease and to make sure no more soldiers meet the same fate. "I would not be without my son if the proper treatment was given to Kevin," his mother, Elaine Taylor, said Wednesday. "Rabies is 100 percent preventable with the right vaccine, but without that treatment you die.

"If he would have died from an enemy attack, we would've been devastated, but we knew he was in harm's way when he was deployed."

In May 2010, Shumaker left for his first tour in Afghanistan, working as a cook at a base in the mountains of Chamkani. As the base cook, among other duties, Shumaker was assigned to feed two base dogs, who had been vaccinated against rabies, Taylor said. About Jan. 10, stray dogs attacked the base dogs, and one bit him on the hand as he tried to break up the fight, Shumaker told his mother. An animal lover with two Labrador retrievers at home, he obeyed an order to shoot the strays. Shumaker shared with his mother his pain over having to kill the animals.

He told her the Army had the animal that bit him tested for rabies and the result came back negative. Shumaker also told his parents he was given what he thought were rabies shots, but he received only three of six because the others were expired. "I don't know what exactly happened," Taylor said. "It's really frustrating."

U.S. Central Command is investigating how Shumaker contracted rabies and his "treatment in theatre," and could not comment on that inquiry, said Jaime Cavazos, a spokesman for Army Medical Command. Shumaker finished his tour in May and spent a month in Castro Valley in June. An Aug. 12 video shows him bowling with friends in Germany. The first symptom appeared Aug. 14, after Shumaker flew from Germany to New York to start his new assignment at Fort Drum.

"I have the weirdest pain in my arm. It's radiating down my arm and it feels like it's tingling," he told his mom upon arriving at JFK Airport. He went to a civilian hospital the next day and was given anti-inflammatory treatment for tendinitis. The following day, he visited a civilian chiropractor and told his mother he felt a little better, but he then started having stomach issues, she said. On Aug. 17, he had trouble drinking, but he was a "stoic kid" and downplayed it, Taylor said.

The next day, a Thursday, he checked into his new post at Fort Drum. On Friday, his first day of work at the base, he collapsed and was taken to a civilian hospital near Fort Drum. After seeing two doctors, the third diagnosed him with rabies and sent him to a hospital in Syracuse, his mother said. Shumaker called his mother and joked about his fantastic new hospital room, but Taylor thought she could hear labored breathing. Throat constriction is a rabies symptom. After they hung up, the nurse called Taylor to tell her to fly out immediately. After a series of blood tests, a doctor at Upstate University Hospital found no evidence of rabies antibodies in Shumaker, leading his mother to question whether he received any rabies vaccination at all.

When Shumaker's parents arrived, he was in an induced coma and on the Milwaukee protocol, an experimental rabies treatment to keep the disease from shutting down his nervous system. On the morning of Aug. 31, his doctor told the Taylors that Shumaker had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. He passed away later that day.

The Army has tried to help the Taylors, but without clear answers there's little closure. Taylor can't stop thinking about the eight months when he could have been treated. "I think (the Army) feels pretty bad that they failed Kevin. You need answers. We can't get closure when you don't know all of what happened," she said.

Following Shumaker's death, Army Central Command formed a rabies response team "tasked to ensure deployed service members who are bitten or scratched by a dog while deployed in theatre report the incident to the nearest medical treatment facility and get medical care," Cavazos wrote. "Additionally, we've undertaken a multi-phases approach to identify, notify, and, if necessary, treat soldiers who have or suspect they have been exposed to rabies."

"Army Medicine's thoughts and prayers are with the mother and family of Specialist Kevin R. Shumaker during this difficult period," Cavazos wrote.

Shumaker received full military honors and was cremated Wednesday. His ashes are en route to Castro Valley, his mother said.


10-27-2011, 18:37
That is hard to take. I went through a rabies series in 1972 in SE Asia after getting bit by someone's pet monkey.

10-27-2011, 22:09
This is really sad. Rest in peace, Soldier. I have a feeling your family will never get the answers they want...........

Baht Dog
10-28-2011, 05:27
Sad, rabies is pretty much 100% fatal but it doesn't have to be. Animal bites should never be underestimated and rabies must be assumed until proven otherwise.

Rest in piece, you served your nation with honor.

10-28-2011, 05:38
Sad, yes.
Preventable, absolutely.

The rest of the story is that after the Soldier received 3 of his RIG injections he didn't go back for the remainder of them.

Unfortunately, the Soldier is not the one who responsibility is placed on. It is EVERYONE ELSE - unit leadership, medical department, hospital etc...everyone but the individual who didn't follow through and do what he was told to do.:rolleyes:

We have been jumping through hoops for the past 2 months with regards to "Rabies Awareness" because of this. It sucks that he died, but the fact that it was his own fault should not be overlooked.

The Reaper
10-28-2011, 07:03
The rest of the story, as is true so often.

And families need someone to blame other than the loved ones.


10-28-2011, 12:09
I had the series at least three times while in the 20th. 10 years after I left there was enough left in my system I did not need the series after breaking up a fight between my lab and a raccoon. It's a shame something so preventable went unnoticed.