Chicago (CBS) — The Illinois Department of Public Health reported on Tuesday the state’s first human case of rabies since 1954. The man died after apparently being bitten by a bat.
The department said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the diagnosis after testing in its laboratory.
The department said that in mid-August, a man in his 80s in Lake County woke up to find a bat on his neck. The bat was captured and proceeded to test positive for rabies.
The department said in a statement: “The person was told that he needed to start post-exposure rabies treatment, but he refused.”
This month, the man began to experience symptoms related to rabies-including neck pain, headache, numbness, difficulty controlling his arms, numbness of the fingers and difficulty speaking. This person has died.
The department stated that it evaluated people who had been exposed to the man’s secretions and received rabies preventive treatment as needed.
“The mortality rate from rabies is the highest of all diseases,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a press release. “However, there is a life-saving treatment for people who quickly seek care after contact with rabies animals. If you think you may have been exposed to rabies, seek medical attention immediately and follow the advice of healthcare providers and public health officials.”
read more: BNSF train hits pedestrians near high ground
Human rabies cases are rare, with one to three cases reported across the country each year. But exposure to rabies is still very common, and an estimated 60,000 Americans receive the post-exposure vaccine each year. The department pointed out that the rabies virus attacks the central nervous system and causes disease and brain death.
Bats are the most common rabies animal in Illinois. A colony of bats was found in the home of the deceased.
The department said that although people usually know whether they have been bitten by a bat, the teeth of bats are also very small, and the bite marks are difficult to see. If you find yourself close to a bat and are not sure if you have been exposed to the virus (for example, if you wake up and find a bat in the room), you should not release the bat because it needs to be captured for rabies testing.
You should also call your doctor or local health department to determine if you have been exposed to rabies and require preventive treatment, and call your animal care and control department to safely remove bats.
A total of 30 bats in Illinois have tested positive for rabies this year.