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US reports first death from vampire bat

A 19-year-old migrant farm worker from Mexico became the first person in the United States to ever die from a vampire bat bite, according to U.S. health authorities.

The man, who was not identified by name, was bitten July 15 while sleeping in his family's home in Michoacán, Mexico. He did not seek out medical treatment for the bat bite and instead crossed the border into the United States en route to work in a sugarcane plantation in Louisiana. But after working one day in the fields, he developed pain in his shoulder, as well as numbness in his left hand and a drooping left eye accompanied by a high fever. He died on Aug. 21.

According to a weekly health status report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this case marks the the first reported death from a vampire bat rabies virus variant in the United States.

Health officials pointed out that the man's roughly two-week incubation period was far shorter than the median of 85 days reported in other human rabies bite cases in the United States.

Another oddity: Vampire bats have traditionally only been found in Latin America. The CDC suggested that the bats might now be moving north because of changes in the climate.

"Expansion of vampire bats into the United States likely would lead to increased bat exposures to both humans and animals (including domestic livestock and wildlife species) and substantially alter rabies virus dynamics and ecology in the southern United States," it reported.