Illinois Reports First Human Case of Rabies Since 1954

Source: Freepik

An Illinois man in his 80s died from rabies, a month after waking up to a bat in his room.

Earlier this week, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported its first human case of rabies since 1954. According to the press release, the man died a month after contracting the infection.

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

The man, who was in his 80s, had woken up to find a bat on his neck. Health authorities captured the bat which tested positive for rabies. As a result, they advised him post-exposure treatment; however, he declined. A month later, he began to experience headaches, neck pain, numbness in his fingers, difficulty controlling his arms and difficulty speaking. The man later died from the infection.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further confirmed his diagnosis after testing in their lab. Moreover, the man’s close contacts were administered rabies preventative treatment.

US Reports 1 to 3 Cases Per Year

Rabies is transmitted to humans through the bite of rabid animals such as foxes, dogs, bats, or raccoons. Moreover, contact with an infected animal’s fluids and secretions can also cause an infection. Globally, dogs are the most common source of the rabies virus. However, in the US, bat bites are the most common cause. Every year, more than 1000 bats in the state of Illinois are tested for rabies.

The viral infection attacks the central nervous system, resulting in inflammation and ultimately death. Infected individuals often present with behavioural changes, confusion, paranoia, paralysis, and hallucinations. The disease has a 99% fatality rate if left untreated. However, the post-exposure vaccine is 100% effective if given in time; that is within 10 days of exposure. Post-exposure treatment involves a dose of human rabies immunoglobulins and four doses of the rabies vaccine over a period of 14 days.

If you do not get the preventive treatment and you have symptoms of rabies, there isn’t a treatment that’s really been successful at helping people come out of that alive.

Connie Austin, Illinois state public health veterinarian

Although human cases of rabies are extremely rare in the US, approximately 60,000 Americans receive post-exposure treatment. The Illinois Health Department advised that in case of contact with a bat, one should immediately contact local health officials. Moreover, the bat should not be released into the wild and instead be appropriately captured for testing.

Source: The Illinois Department of Public Health


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