LAKE COUNTY, Ill. — An Illinois man in his 80s died after contracting rabies from a bat that apparently bit him while sleeping in his home.
The Illinois Department of Public Health says the Lake County resident awoke to a bat on his neck in mid-August. Officials confirmed that the animal had rabies and were able to capture it. Wildlife experts also found a bat colony within the home.
He was told that he should be treated for rabies. However, he declined to do so. He began to experience symptoms of rabies a month later. These included neck pain, headaches, difficulty controlling his arms and fingers, finger numbness and difficulty speaking. According to the department, he died later.
Officials state that those who were in direct contact with the person’s secretions received rabies preventive treatment if necessary.
“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a statement. “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.”
This was the first human case of rabies reported by the state of Illinois since 1954. Although cases of human Rabies in the U.S. are very rare, officials claim that exposures are still quite common. Each year, approximately 60,000 Americans receive the post-exposure vaccination series.
The rabies disease causes damage to the central nervous systems, eventually leading to brain cancer and death. Rabies can be fatal if it is not treated promptly.
Officials claim that people can usually tell when they’ve been bitten by a bat. However, the bats have very small teeth so it might not be easy for some to spot the bite mark. If you find yourself near a bat and are not sure if you were exposed, don’t release it as it should be captured for rabies testing. To determine if your symptoms are rabies-related, call your doctor or local hospital. To safely remove the bat, call your local animal care & control.