Pipistrelle bat flying inside building
Pipistrelle bat flying inside buildingiStock

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on Tuesday reported the first human case of rabies in Illinois since 1954, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the diagnosis after testing at its lab.

In a statement, IDPH said, "In mid-August, a Lake County resident in his 80s awoke to a bat on his neck. The bat was captured and tested positive for rabies. The individual was advised he needed to start post-exposure rabies treatment but declined."

"One month later, the individual began experiencing symptoms consistent with rabies, including neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, finger numbness, and difficulty speaking. The individual subsequently died. People who had contact with secretions from the individual were assessed and given rabies preventive treatment as needed."

"Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, adding that, "there is life-saving treatment for individuals who quickly seek care after being exposed to an animal with rabies."

According to IDPH, while cases of human rabies in the United States are rare with only 1 to 3 cases reported each year, rabies exposures are still common with an estimated 60,000 Americans receiving the post-exposure vaccination series each year. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Without preventive treatment, rabies is typically fatal.

Wildlife experts found a bat colony in the home of the individual who died, IDPH added.