Illinois dies of rabies in state’s first human case since the 1950s

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He was advised to start rabies treatment after the exposure but he declined

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An Illinois man died this month in the state’s first human case of rabies since 1954, according to health officials.

The Lake County man, in his 80s, awoke in mid-August to find a bat on his neck.

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The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said the bat was captured and tested positive for rabies, but when health officials told the man he needed to start rabies treatment after exposure, he refused. in a statement.

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A month later, the man began experiencing symptoms of rabies, including neck pain, difficulty controlling his arms, numbness in the fingers, and difficulty speaking.

He later died and a bat colony was found in his house.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the diagnosis on Tuesday.

According to the CDC, only one to three human rabies cases are reported in the US each year. Health officials said that without proper treatment once symptoms appear, rabies is usually fatal.

“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease,” said IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “However, there is life-saving treatment for individuals who seek immediate care after coming into contact with an animal with rabies. If you think you may have been exposed to rabies, seek immediate medical attention and health care. Follow the recommendations of providers and public health officials.”

While cases of human rabies are rare in the U.S., incidents of rabies exposure are still common, according to health officials, with an estimated 60,000 Americans receiving a “post-exposure vaccination series” each year.

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“Unfortunately, this case underscores the importance of raising public awareness of the risk of rabies in the United States,” said Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department.

In Illinois, bats are the most common species to carry rabies. At least 30 bats have tested positive for rabies in the state this year.

Rabies is usually spread through animal bites. Other animals most likely to spread rabies include dogs, coyotes, foxes, skunks and raccoons. according to CDC.


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