Minnesota man dies from RABIES after waking up to a rabid BAT biting his hand

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Minnesota man dies from RABIES after waking up in the middle of the night to a rabid BAT biting his hand

  • Man, 84, caught the bat and quickly washed his hands with soap and water
  • Testing revealed the bat had rabies which prompted him to start on treatment 
  • Do you know the man in this story? Email: luke.a.andrews@mailonline.co.uk 

A man in Minnesota died from rabies last year after waking up to find a rabid bat biting his hand, US health officials have revealed.

The 84-year-old, who has not been named, batted away the animal and quickly washed his hands with soap before returning to bed with his wife.

The couple was administered post-exposure prophylaxis rabies treatment that included a series of rabies vaccines and antibody injections.

But five months later, the man returned to the hospital complaining of severe pain in the right side of his face and excessive tearing in the eye. 

He died 15 days later after suffering severe brain and spinal cord swelling, according to a new report released in the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The 84-year-old was bitten by a silver-haired bat infected with rabies (stock photo of silver-haired bat)

The 84-year-old was bitten by a silver-haired bat infected with rabies (stock photo of silver-haired bat)

Doctors who treated the 84-year-old were based in Duluth, Minnesota (Pictured). The man came from Minnesota

Doctors who treated the 84-year-old were based in Duluth, Minnesota (Pictured). The man came from Minnesota

Medics said this was the first recorded US case of a rabies patient dying after receiving prophylaxis treatment in a ‘timely and appropriate’ manner. 

Rabies is a virtually always fatal infection unless patients are administered medications before symptoms emerge.

It is caused by a virus that targets the central nervous system, triggering inflammation in the brain and spinal cords.

People can become infected by rabid animals — including bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes — typically via the saliva of infected animals.

Symptoms typically start three to eight weeks after becoming infected and begin as a fever, headache, muscle weakness and general discomfort. But then it will progress to confusion, agitation, hallucinations, paralysis and coma.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there are typically two to three human deaths from rabies reported in the United States every year.

But in 2021, the latest date available, five fatalities were recorded including the 84-year-old man and a seven-year-old boy. Four patients were bitten by bats and one by a dog in the Philippines.

Dr Stacy Holzbauer, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said the report summarizes ‘the first reported failure of rabies [treatment] in the western hemisphere’.

They suggested the treatments failed because the patients had an undiagnosed immune condition, which made the vaccines less effective.

The bite occurred on July 27, 2020, but the man did not fall ill with the disease until January of the following year.

He had several underlying conditions, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney problems and an enlarged prostate. 

Upon his first trip to the hospital, he received a rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) drug and three doses of the rabies vaccine.

The man went to hospital three times complaining of sudden pain on the right side of his face and tearing of the right eye before being admitted.

By this time, however, facial pain had worsened and he started to suffer night sweats, right eye redness, facial paralysis and left ear pain.

Further swabs revealed that the man had encephalitis, or a swelling of the brain and spinal cord. He also developed a fever of 103.1F (39.5C).

Medics intubated the man to support his breathing but the decision was eventually taken to withdraw treatment. He died 15 days after symptoms appeared.

Testing revealed that he had contracted rabies which was identical to that in the bat that bit his hand.

Rabies: Death from a scratch

Rabies is a viral infection which targets the nervous system and the brain.

It is deadly in 100 percent of cases left untreated – and has an incubation period of 20 to 60 days.

It is only spread by infected animals to humans, most often through the animal biting or scratching the person.

It can also be spread by an animal’s saliva being in contact with a graze or cut on a human’s skin. The majority of rabies cases result from being bitten by an infected dog.

The symptoms of the illness include high temperatures, numbness at the area where the bite occurred and hallucinations. Some victims also have hydrophobia, which is a fear of water.

There are about 55,000 cases of rabies worldwide each year with over 95% of cases occurring in Africa and Asia. Half of all rabies cases occur in India. 

Rabies is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) that predominantly affects poor and vulnerable populations who live in remote rural locations.

Approximately 80% of human cases occur in rural areas, and although effective human vaccines and immunoglobulins exist for rabies, they are not readily available or accessible to those in need. 

Globally, rabies deaths are rarely reported and children between the ages of 5–14 years are frequent victims. 

Every year, more than 29 million people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccination. This is estimated to prevent hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths annually.

Source: WHO 

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