A Lake County man has died from rabies after being bitten by a bat while asleep in his home, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Lake County Health Department said Tuesday.
The man who was in his 80s woke up in mid-August to find a bat on his neck, according to a news release from the two health agencies. The bat was captured and tested positive for rabies. The man was told to receive treatment for rabies, but declined, according to the release.
A month later, the man began experience symptoms of rabies, such as neck pain, headaches, difficultly controlling movement, and trouble speaking. He later died. A bat colony was later found in the man’s home, according to officials.
The man was identified as Thomas Krob, 87, of Spring Grove, according to a news release Tuesday from the McHenry County Coroner’s Office.
The coroner’s office was contacted Sept. 20 by Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital regarding Krob’s death and subsequently confirmed that Krob contracted rabies after being bit by a bat at his home, Coroner Michael Rein said in the release.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Officials said people who may have also been exposed to the man have been treated.
The case is Illinois’ first human rabies case since 1954, according to health officials.
IDPH director Ngozi Ezike said in the release that rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease. Only one to three cases usually occur each year across the country, but as many as 60,000 people are exposed and receive preventative vaccines as a result, officials said. Rabies is usually fatal when not treated, according to the release.
Health officials advise people who sometimes may not know whether they have been bitten by a bat because of their small teeth and anyone who has been near a bat, such as finding one in their house, to call a doctor to see whether they have been exposed to rabies and call animal control so the bat can be captured for rabies testing.
So far this year, 30 bats in Illinois have tested positive for rabies, and about 3% of bats tested for rabies have it, IDPH said.