Lake County man dies of rabies; First human case in Illinois since 1954

Lake County, Illinois – An elderly man in the northern suburbs has died of rabies – the first human case in Illinois since 1954.

In mid-August, a man in his 80s woke up in Lake County with a racket on his neck. Species were collected and then tested positive for rabies.

Health officials urged the man to start treatment for rabies after exposure, due to the high mortality rate, but the man refused.

A month later, officials said, the man began experiencing symptoms consistent with rabies — including neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, numbness of the fingers and difficulty speaking.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system and eventually causes brain disease and death. Without preventive treatment, rabies is usually fatal.

“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any other disease,” said IPI Director Dr. Ngozi Izeki. However, there is a life-saving treatment for individuals who quickly seek care after being exposed to an animal with rabies. If you think you have been exposed to rabies, seek medical attention immediately and follow the recommendations of your health care providers and public health officials.”

If you find yourself in close proximity to a bat and are not sure if you have been exposed to a bat, do not release the bat because it must be picked up appropriately for rabies testing. Call your doctor or your local health department for help in determining if you might be exposed and call animal control to remove the bats.

So far this year, 30 bats in Illinois have tested positive for rabies.

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