Rabies survivor shares story to educate others

As a teen, she was the first person to survive rabies without receiving the vaccine
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 4:02 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) - About 60,000 people a year, worldwide, die from rabies. If caught early, it’s treatable with a vaccine.

On “World Rabies Day”, the first person to survive rabies without receiving the vaccine, is sharing her story in hopes of educating others.

For nearly 20 years Northeast Wisconsin has been following the story of Fond du Lac native Jeanna Giese.

“I am the first person in the world to survive rabies without the vaccination,” says Giese.

It was back in 2004, when Giese, then just 15 years old, was bitten by a bat. She unknowingly contracted rabies and therefore didn’t receive the life-saving vaccine treatment. Weeks later, hospitalized, she was just hours away from death.

According to Giese, “The doctors came up with a radical treatment to put me in a coma and just let my own body fight it off.”

Eighteen years later, this mother of three, is working at the Fond du Lac Children’s Museum. And, on “World Rabies Day”, she’s sharing her rabies story -- educating people, especially kids, about the virus, how it’s contracted, what it does to the body, and how it’s treated.

Giese says, “My main mission is just kind of to get the word out there and kind of get them more inquisitive about it and learning and learning how to stay safe around animals.”

Passionate about rabies education, Giese shares her story in an effort to help people. Her message definitely having an impact on those who hear her story.

“I knew you could catch it from getting bit, but I didn’t exactly how it got to your brain and how long you had, specifically, and so it was fascinating to learn how that worked,” says Sophie Mortier of Fond du Lac.

Gwen North adds, “I think it’s just really good for us to just remind the children that, how important it is not to touch an animal, like a bat hanging out on a wall, just keep your distance so I just think it’s a good thing to talk about.”

And Giese will continue to talk about rabies because there’s always more to learn and a message to spread.

Giese gives science talks at the Children's Museum in Fond du Lac. This week's talk was on World Rabies Day.
The world's first survivor without the rabies vaccine, Fond du Lac's Jeanna Giese, will teach a program on rabies at the Children's Museum of Fond du Lac on Sep