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Illinois man dies from rabies in the first human case since 1954

Illinois man who woke up with BAT on his neck dies of rabies – in state’s first human case since 1954

  • The man from Lake County, IL, said he was bitten on the neck in mid-August
  • He did not start exhibiting symptoms until September, by which point it was too late to save him as rabies has a mortality rate of 100% if left untreated
  • There is a vaccine for rabies, but treatment needs to be administered quickly after exposure
  • It is the first recorded case of the disease in Illinois since 1954
  • More than 29 million people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccination each year


The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on Tuesday reported a man had died from rabies in what is the first human case of the disease in the state since 1954.

The department announced that a man in his 80s from Lake County, IL had died on Tuesday, just over a month after he said he woke up one day in mid-August to find a bat clinging to his neck. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the diagnosis after testing at its lab, and said the man had started experiencing symptoms associated with rabies including neck pain, a headache, difficulty controlling his limbs, slurred speech and numbness in his extremities.

Rabies has one of the highest mortality rates of any disease, as virtually 100% of patients who exhibit symptoms die within weeks.  

Though there is a vaccine for rabies and treatment options that can prevent death, treatment needs to be administered immediately after a victim has been exposed to the disease. 

Once a victim begins to exhibit symptoms, it is typically too late to save them. 

A man in his 80s from Lake County, IL had died on Tuesday, just over a month after he said he woke up one day in mid-August to find a bat clinging to his neck

Bats are known to carry the disease, but dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans according to the World Health Organisation

Bats are known to carry the disease, but dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans according to the World Health Organisation

Healthcare workers and others who had contact with secretions from the man were assessed and given rabies preventative treatment as needed, reported CBS News

IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said: ‘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.’

Human cases of rabies are rare, with one to three cases reported nationwide each year. 

But rabies exposures remain common, and an estimated 60,000 Americans receive post-exposure vaccines each year.  

The news from Illinois comes amid reports from Anchorage, Alaska that a group of river otters have suddenly begun exhibiting extremely aggressive behaviour, attacking passers-by and their pets, with rabies cited as one possible cause.

According to the state’s Department of Fish and Game, a nine-year-old boy received a rabies shot after he was attacked by a group of four river otters near Dowling and Lake Otis.

His mother Tiffany shared images of the bites to her son’s legs on neighborhood social networking site Nextdoor, warning locals to stay away from the lake.

Nine -year-old Ayden was taken to an emergency room for a rabies shot after being bitten several times near a duck pond on Carriage Drive. His mother shared images of the bites to the local community

Nine -year-old Ayden was taken to an emergency room for a rabies shot after being bitten several times near a duck pond on Carriage Drive. His mother shared images of the bites to the local community

Rabies: Death from a scratch

Rabies is a viral infection which targets the nervous system and the brain.

It is deadly in 100 percent of cases left untreated – and has an incubation period of 20 to 60 days.

It is only spread by infected animals to humans, most often through the animal biting or scratching the person.

It can also be spread by an animal’s saliva being in contact with a graze or cut on a human’s skin. The majority of rabies cases result from being bitten by an infected dog.

The symptoms of the illness include high temperatures, numbness at the area where the bite occurred and hallucinations. Some victims also have hydrophobia, which is a fear of water.

There are about 55,000 cases of rabies worldwide each year with over 95% of cases occurring in Africa and Asia. Half of all rabies cases occur in India. 

Rabies is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) that predominantly affects poor and vulnerable populations who live in remote rural locations.

Approximately 80% of human cases occur in rural areas, and although effective human vaccines and immunoglobulins exist for rabies, they are not readily available or accessible to those in need. 

Globally, rabies deaths are rarely reported and children between the ages of 5–14 years are frequent victims. 

Every year, more than 29 million people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccination. This is estimated to prevent hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths annually.

Source: WHO 

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