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Illinois man dies after catching rabies from an apparent bat bite while he slept at home

This report comes from CBS Chicago.

Chicago — The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported the first human case of rabies in the state since 1954 in a man who died after apparently being bitten by a bat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the diagnosis after testing at its lab, the department said.

In mid-August, a Lake County man in his 80s woke up to find a bat on his neck, the department said. The bat was captured and went on to test positive for rabies.

This month, the man started experiencing symptoms associated with rabies — including neck pain, a headache, numbness, difficult controlling his arms, finger numbness, and difficulty speaking. The man has since died.

People who had contact with secretions from the man were assessed and given rabies preventative treatment as needed, the department said.

"Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease," IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a news release. "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."

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 rabies virus attacks the central nervous system and causes disease and brain death, the department noted.

Big Brown Bat
A wildlife biologist checks the wings of a Big Brown Bat in an undated file photo. The species is common across most of the continental United States. Getty/iStockphoto

Bats are the most commonly-identified animals with rabies in Illinois. A bat colony was found in the home of the man who died.

While people usually know if they have been bitten by a bat, bats also have very small teeth and bite marks can be hard to see, the department said. If you find yourself near a bat and aren't sure if you were exposed — such as if you wake up to find a bat in your room — you should not release the bat as it needs to be captured for rabies testing.

You should also call your doctor or local health department to determine whether you have been exposed to rabies and need preventative treatment, as well as your animal care and control department to remove the bat safely.

A total of 30 bats have tested positive for rabies this year in Illinois.

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