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Illinois Reports First Human Rabies Case Since 1954

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The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting the first human case of rabies in the state in more than 65 years.

In mid-August, a Lake County resident awoke to a bat that had landed on his neck. The bat was captured and tested positive. The man, who was not identified, refused treatment.

But a month later, he began experiencing rabies symptoms, such as headaches, difficulty speaking and numbness. The man subsequently died.

Those who think they may have been exposed should seek medical attention. Animals like bats that bite a human should be contained for testing. This year, 30 bats in Illinois have tested positive. The only way rabies can be confirmed in a bat is through laboratory testing. 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.

Health officials say human rabies cases are rare in the U.S., with only one to three reported each year. But they say exposure is common as an estimated 60-thousand people receive the series of rabies vaccine shots annually.

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