An Illinois man has tragically died after waking up to a bat on his neck in the first human case of rabies in the state since 1954.
In his 80s, the man was bitten in mid-August by a bat. He was advised to seek treatment for post-exposure Rabies, but he refused.
On Tuesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that the bat had been captured and was positive for the disease.
The frightening symptoms that the pensioner experienced included neck pain, headaches and difficulty speaking.
The states health department confirmed that anyone who had been in contact with the man was given preventative rabies treatment.
“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a news release.
“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.”
Humans cases of rabies are exceedingly rare – with only one to three cases reported in the United States each year. But, rabies exposures are still common with an estimated 60,000 Americans receiving post-exposure vaccines each year.
The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, which causes disease in the brain and is typically fatal without preventive treatment.
“Sadly, this case underscores the importance of raising public awareness about the risk of rabies exposure in the United States,” Mark Pfister, Lake County Health Department Executive Director.
“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.”
The health department added that bats are the most “commonly identified species with rabies” in Illinois and that a bat colony was discovered in the home of the man who died.
Even though people know when they’ve been bitten by bats, it is difficult to see bite marks on the creatures’ teeth.
The state’s health department asked people to catch bats if they find them near their homes.
According to reports, 30 bats in Illinois have been confirmed as having rabies this year.
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