BURLEY — A Burley wildlife rehabber who was bitten by a rabid Twin Falls bat is undergoing treatment and says a state protocol needs to be put in place to ensure medical professionals are up-to-date on rabies bite treatment.
Debbie Moeller said a man found the 3-inch-long brown bat on the ground in front of a downtown Twin Falls business and he drove it to Burley.
When Moeller attempted to transfer the bat on July 14 to a container to ship it to Animals in Distress, in Boise, which does wildlife rehabilitation, the animal bit through her glove.
“I felt all his little teeth go into my skin,” Moeller said. “But at that time it was only a questionable bat, and I didn’t know it had rabies.”
When Moeller removed her glove the bite marks were not really detectable.
“But I felt it when it bit and I knew what had happened and that it was considered a bite and I was in danger,” Moeller said, who had not received the pre-exposure rabies vaccine, because of the prohibitive cost of $1,500, which is not covered by her insurance.
A person has seven days to receive a series of injections after a bite from a rabid animal to prevent a case of rabies, Moeller said. At that time, Moeller said, the bat was not acting oddly, so she decided to wait and evaluate its behavior before contacting a doctor.
“At the time I was concerned but I was hoping the bat was injured and not rabid,” she said.
The bat continued to eat and drink for a couple of days and seemed fine and then it began refusing to eat and wouldn’t hang anymore, Moeller said.
On July 17, Moeller called a clinic where she sees a family physician, but her doctor was not in the office that day. The receptionist spoke with a medical professional on call, who relayed the message that Moeller was up-to-date on her tetanus shots and that she should watch for infection.
“I wasn’t sure that she’d understood me,” Moeller said, who recognized the medical response as incorrect.
She told the receptionist again that she’d been bitten and suspected the bat had rabies. The receptionist checked again and the medical professional repeated the same advice.
“If I was not an informed person and a wildlife rehabilitator, I could be dying of rabies right now,” Moeller said.
When a rabies bite is not treated in time it is almost always fatal, she said.
Moeller called her regular doctor the next day, who told her it was an emergency and she should go immediately to the hospital.
At the first hospital she went to, Moeller said there was confusion over the bite treatment protocol so she called the state public health veterinarian, in Boise, who intervened on her behalf.
Moeller ended up going to another hospital for the injections.
She went to Minidoka Memorial Hospital on July 20 for the first of a series of injections to prevent rabies after a bite.
MMH had the rabies immune globulin, taken from vaccinated people, and the hospital staff told her they considered it an emergency and the hospital did not care if her insurance would cover the $5,000 to $6,000 costs.
“They totally rallied around me to get all the issues solved,” Moeller said.
The course of treatment requires four other injections besides the initial “most important one,” Moeller said. The injections, which do not particularly hurt, are spaced out over a period of time. She will finish the treatment on Aug. 2.
The injections, Moeller said, are not administered in a person’s stomach as they were years ago; rather they are placed in a muscle. She is receiving hers in her legs.
When she started treatment on July 20, she did not know that the bat, which died on July 19, was rabid.
The public health department sent the bat to Boise for analysis and Moeller received confirmation on Tuesday that the bat had rabies.
The South Central Public Health District said in a press release earlier this week that people should only attempt bat captures if they can do it safely and avoid contact with the bat.
This was the first bat this year to test positive for rabies in south-central Idaho.
Most bats are harmless and do not carry rabies, the release said, and they are the only animal in Idaho to naturally carry the virus. Most animals, including pets, can become exposed to the virus by playing with sick bats.
“Thankfully, I had some knowledge of rabies protocol, because 95 percent of the public is not informed and if a doctor tells them they are okay, they would believe him,” Moeller said. “My concern is there needs to be a statewide effort to get correct information about rabies exposure out to clinics and doctors.”
Moeller says she is “100 percent safe” at this time because she started treatment within the seven-day window.
If a person finds injured wildlife or an animal that is acting oddly, they should never touch or handle it, she said.
“I’m experienced in handling wildlife, and I was taking precautions and I still got bit,” Moeller said.
TWIN FALLS — Republican Idaho House leaders defended attacks against Boise State University’s leaders and diversity efforts, including a cartoon that depicted the new university president and State Board of Education members as clowns.
The comments came primarily from Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, at a town hall Wednesday night in Twin Falls. Moyle also said the party will likely introduce legislation next year to address Republican concerns with BSU’s diversification programs, but he didn’t give any details about what the legislation might include.
Other lawmakers at the town hall, including House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, joined Moyle in opposing Boise State’s diversity efforts but were more critical of the cartoon.
It’s important to see what started this debate, Moyle said, referring to a letter sent in June by BSU interim President Martin Schimpf that highlighted the school’s efforts to attract a diverse pool of job applicants, pay for multicultural events and help minority students graduate.
“My concern is we’re starting to break us up in groups,” Moyle said. “That’s not what diversification is.”
In response to the letter from Schmipf, 28 House Republicans, including Moyle, cosigned a letter asking university President Marlene Tromp to reject the diversity initiatives of previous BSU leaders.
“This drive to create a diversified and inclusive culture becomes divisive and exclusionary because it separates and segregates students,” Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, wrote in the letter.Moyle said Wednesday that his endorsement of the letter isn’t a sign he is racist.
“I’ve got red cattle out there, I’ve got black cattle out there. ... It doesn’t matter, they’re all cattle” he said. “It’s really easy to call somebody a racist because they don’t like the way the words were written.”
He suggested all-white graduations would not be OK, a reference to BSU’s program that provides graduation ceremonies for black or gay and transgender students.
Last week, Tromp received an anonymous postcard that called BSU an “alt-gender-cult center for LBGTQ creep clowns.” Gov. Brad Little condemned the postcard, calling it “distasteful,” but added, “free speech is a tenet of a democratic republic.”
Schmipf’s original letter was over the line and Republicans were justified in their response, Bedke said at the town hall. While the caricatures were unfair, “you’re in the public arena, and satire is a time-honored tactic of those of us in politics,” Bedke said.
Rep. Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome, said she agreed on a couple of points in the Republican response letter, but was against the letter’s suggestion that undocumented students who are in school under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should not receive special considerations for scholarships.
Regardless, the postcard was not the right response, Lickley said.
“If we have a problem with a university, I’m not sure this is the mechanism to do it,” she said.
TWIN FALLS — The Bureau of Land Management spent Tuesday fighting six fires in south-central Idaho. All are believed to be caused by lightning and while none are threatening structures at the moment, combined they have burned thousands of acres since the weekend.
The Lava fire northeast of Shoshone also closed Idaho Highway 75 for about two hours Tuesday morning and smoke in the area continues to limit visibility, the Idaho Transportation Department said Tuesday evening.
Crews fought the fires Tuesday while a red flag warning was in effect for the region, with critical fire weather conditions including a chance of thunderstorms, which could start more fires, the National Weather Service said.
Here is the latest update from the BLM on the fires in the Twin Falls District, as of 8 p.m. Tuesday:
Hot Springs Fire
The 11,300-acre fire is burning about 25 miles north of Murphy Hot Springs, near the Bruneau Canyon. Officials expected to have the fire contained at 8 p.m. Tuesday and under control by 8 p.m. Wednesday. Two overhead units, seven BLM engines, a dozer, a water tender and a camp crew are fighting the smoldering brush and grass fire.
Notch Butte Fire
The 4,952-acre fire is burning about a half-mile east of Notch Butte, south of Shoshone. The fire was contained at 4 p.m. Tuesday and should be under control by noon Wednesday. Two BLM engines and an overhead unit are fighting the smoldering grass fire.
The 55-acre fire is burning about 3 miles west of Hagerman, near the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Crews had the fire contained at 6 p.m. Tuesday and expect it will be under control by 6 p.m. Wednesday. One BLM engine and a hand crew are fighting the grass and brush fire.
Officials do not have a containment or control estimate for the 1,300-acre fire burning about 3 miles northeast of Shoshone. There are two hotshot crews, two engines, a water tender, a dozer and four overhead units fighting the smoldering and creeping grass and brush fire. There are structures in the area, but as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, none were immediately threatened, the BLM said.
Lookout Point Fire
The 2,000-acre fire about 20 miles northwest of Murphy Hot Springs, near Bruneau Canyon, does not have a containment or control estimate. The Three Creek Rural Fire Protection Association, one dozer and seven smokejumpers are fighting the smoldering and running grass and brush fire.
The 250-acre fire is about 7 miles northwest of Richfield. It has no containment or control estimate. One engine and a hand crew are fighting the smoldering and running grass and brush fire.
JEROME — If the announcement “Paging Dr. Sugden” ever came through a speaker system, who responded could be rather tricky.
That’s because five members of the Sugden family are doctors.
Mom Betty Sugden, M.D., is a family practice physician at St. Luke’s in Jerome.
Dad Mark Sugden, Ph.D., is the retired dean of Health Science and Human Services for the College of Southern Idaho.
Older son Wade Sugden, Ph.D., is a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, affiliated with Harvard University.
Younger son Luke Sugden D.O., is part of the Magic Valley Rural Program, in residency at both St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center and St. Luke’s in Jerome.
Luke’s wife, Michelle Sugden, Pharm.D., is a pharmacist in Twin Falls.
“I don’t think we’ve ever all been in the same place when they’ve called for Dr. Sugden,” Luke Sugden said.
He recently returned to the Magic Valley to start his two-year residency and, occasionally, gets to work with his mom.
Betty Sugden has spent 30 years as a doctor in Jerome, from the days when St. Luke’s was St. Benedict’s Hospital. Over the years, she has delivered more than 500 babies.
Yet, she envies her son, who while on his obstetrics rotation delivered a set of twins via cesarean section the first week of July.
“I’ve never done that,” his mom said.
Being open to learning new things is part of practicing medicine, the Sugdens agree.
“Luke picked up on the fact that I value education, without me ever having to say a word,” said Mark Sugden, who spent 27 years at CSI.
The younger Sugden admits the time he spent on the CSI campus, attending College for Kids programs and summer classes, reinforced that concept.
As for his inspiration to become a doctor: he spent time at his mother’s office, where he and his brother raced chart carts along the hallways.
A strong source of Betty Sugden’s continued contentment in her practice is the work/life balance. Family is important to her, and so are her patients.
“It’s personal,” she said. “You get to know people.”
She’s been treating members of the same family, in some instances multiple generations.
Luke Sugden credits another source of reinforcement for the medical profession in how he hung out with the sons of other doctors in Jerome as a youth.
It might have seemed predictable for him to choose a profession in health care, but his parents left the choice to him.
“He’s a pretty level-headed individual,” Betty Sugden said. “He’s very caring and good with people.”
Once the decision was made, Luke Sugden applied for, and was accepted by, programs for the medical doctor and doctor of osteopathics tracks.
He opted for the latter. “D.O. programs are more primary care focused,” he said.
When he left Jerome, he thought he wouldn’t be returning. “There was no medical school in Idaho at the time,” he said.
He started his education at Boise State University, where his favorite activity was playing tuba in the marching band.
“It was fun to watch, too,” chuckled his mom.
His hardest class was organic chemistry.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he headed to Rocky Vista University College in Colorado for his graduate training.
Luke Sugden found himself back in the Jerome area as part of the Magic Valley Rural Program. Residents are assigned to rural hospitals for their family medicine training, with the younger Sugden poised to rotate through inpatient medicine, surgery, pediatrics and emergency room as he progresses through the two-year assignment.
That doesn’t involve him returning to live with his parents, though.
He and his wife live in Twin Falls.
As for Betty Sugden, she enjoys working not only with her son, but with all the medical students and residents assigned to St. Luke’s in Jerome.
“I learn from them,” Betty Sugden said.
She related how, since his return, her son performed a toenail removal using a new technique. Taking his lead, she used the technique on a recent patient and was pleased with the results.
For his part, Luke Sugden is still hoping to find that work/life balance his mother has discovered. “It’s supposed to get better after residency,” he said.
His future plans once his residency is complete are still a bit up in the air. He admitted, “I certainly would stay here if a job was available.”
BOISE — A Twin Falls man has been arrested on child pornography charges.
Alberto Ramos-Gaeta, 36, was booked into the Twin Falls County Jail on Monday after an Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Unit investigation, the Idaho Attorney General’s website reported.
Ramos-Gaeta is charged with 10 felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child. A months-long investigation involved tips about videos uploaded on the internet that were traced to Ramos-Gaeta. A search warrant was issued for Ramos-Gaeta’s Facebook account, his vehicle, his cellphone and his Twin Falls residence. Files found during that search led to his arrest.
Ramos-Gaeta’s initial appearance took place before Judge Benjamin Harmer at the Twin Falls courthouse Tuesday afternoon. His bond was set at $200,000.
A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 2. He remains in custody.