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Man Died From Rabies After He ‘Awoke To A Bat On His Neck’

An 80-year-old man who woke up with a bat in his bedroom has become the first to die of rabies in Illinois since 1954.

Man Dies After He ‘Awoke To A Bat On His Neck’ In Illinois
The man whose name remains undisclosed “awoke to a bat on his neck” in mid August, the Illinois Department of Public Health said on Tuesday. 

The bat was captured and tested positive for rabies, but the man declined advice to start preventative treatment. A month later, he experienced symptoms associated with rabies ranging from neck pain, headache, loss of sensation in his fingers, as well as difficulty in controlling his arms. Those who have come in contact with the man were also assessed and chose to undergo preventative treatment.

An entire colony was later discovered to be living in the man’s home. According to health officials, bats are the most common carriers of rabies in Illinois.

“Sadly, the 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 is transmitted via bites but bats have small teeth, so it is difficult to detect the bite marks on the skin.

Anyone who happens to have a contact with a bat should capture it for rabies testing. About 1000 bats are captured and screened annually for rabies with about 30 testing positive this year, that is to say 3% positivity is recorded every year in Illinois.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health “If the bat is available for testing and the results are negative, preventative treatment is not needed.”