Illinois man dies of rabies after waking to find bat on his neck

The fatality is the first human case of the disease reported in the state for almost 70 years.

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A northern Illinois man has died of rabies after apparently being bitten by a bat — the first human case of rabies in the state since 1954, health officials reported Tuesday.

The diagnosis has been confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a release.

The man’s name was not released. Officials said he was in his 80s and lived in Lake County.

He woke up in mid-August and found a bat on his neck. The bat was captured and later tested positive for rabies. The man declined to begin post-exposure rabies treatment, health officials said.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system and causes disease and brain death. The man began experiencing neck pain, a headache, difficulty controlling his arms, finger numbness, difficulty speaking and other symptoms of the disease.

A bat colony later was found in his home.

“Sadly, this case underscores the importance of raising public awareness about the risk of rabies exposure in the United States,” Lake County Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister said. “Rabies infections in people are rare in the United States, however, once symptoms begin, rabies is almost always fatal, making it vital that an exposed person receive appropriate treatment to prevent the onset of rabies as soon as possible.”

Thirty bats have tested positive in Illinois this year for rabies, according to the health department.

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