Illinois man wakes up with bat on neck, dies from rabies in state’s first human case since 1954

U.S.

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. (WGN) — An Illinois man has died from rabies after apparently being bitten by a bat that was on his neck when he woke up, health officials reported

The CDC confirmed it was the first human rabies case in the state’s history since 1954.

In mid-August, the Lake County man in his 80s woke up with a bat on his neck, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The specimen was collected and subsequently tested positive for rabies.

Health officials urged the man to start post-exposure rabies treatment, due to its high mortality rate, but the man declined.

One month later, officials said the man began experiencing symptoms consistent with rabies — including neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, finger numbness and difficulty speaking.

A bat colony later was found in his home.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Without preventive treatment, rabies is typically fatal.

“Sadly, this case underscores the importance of raising public awareness about the risk of rabies exposure in the United States,” Lake County Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister said. “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 has the highest mortality rate of any disease,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “However, there is a 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.”

If you find yourself in close proximity to a bat and are not sure if you were exposed, do not release the bat as it should be appropriately captured for rabies testing. Call your doctor or local health department to help determine if you could have been exposed and call animal control to remove the bat.

Thirty bats have tested positive in Illinois this year for rabies, according to the health department.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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