An Illinois man died from rabies after apparently being bitten by a bat, marking the first human case to be recorded in the state since 1954.
The man, who was in his 80s, woke up one night in mid-August to find a bat on his neck. The animal was captured and tested positive for rabies but the man declined post-exposure rabies treatment despite the recommendation by health officials, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said in a statement.
One month later he began experiencing symptoms of rabies, including neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, finger numbness, and difficulty speaking. He subsequently died and a bat colony was found in his home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the diagnosis after testing at its lab on Tuesday.
"Sadly, this case underscores the importance of raising public awareness about the risk of rabies exposure in the United States," said Lake County Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister. "Rabies infections in people are rare in the United States; however, once symptoms begin, rabies is almost always fatal, making it vital that an exposed person receive appropriate treatment to prevent the onset of rabies as soon as possible."
Rabies cases in the U.S. are rare however only one in three cases are reported each year. Furthermore, rabies exposures are still common, with an estimated 60,000 Americans receiving the post-exposure vaccination series each year. Rabies, which infects the central nervous system and leads to disease in the brain, is fatal without preventive treatment.
"Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. "However, there is life-saving treatment for individuals who quickly seek care after being exposed to an animal with rabies. If you think you may have been exposed to rabies, immediately seek medical attention and follow the recommendations of health care providers and public health officials."
In Illinois, bats are the most commonly identified species with rabies, with 30 having tested positive this year alone. Other animals that commonly spread the virus in the U.S. include dogs, coyotes, foxes, skunks, and raccoons, according to Fox News.
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