Illinois man, bit by bat while he slept, dies of rabies in first reported case since 1954

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — In August, an 80-year-old man awoke to find a bat on his neck. A month later, he was diagnosed with rabies, the first case in Illinois since 1954, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The IDPH says the incident happened in Lake County, and the bat was captured and tested positive for the disease. The victim was allegedly told he needed to begin post-exposure treatment for rabies, but declined. A month later, he began experiencing neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, finger numbness, and difficulty speaking.

He later died.

“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “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.”

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.  Without preventive treatment, rabies is typically fatal. 

Bats are the most commonly identified species with rabies in Illinois.  Wildlife experts did find a bat colony in the home of the individual who died. 

So far this year, 30 bats have tested positive for rabies in Illinois.  More than 1,000 bats are tested for rabies each year in Illinois due to a possible exposure.  Approximately 3% of tested bats are positive for rabies.

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