As soon as the virus reaches the brain, it can cause seizures, fear of water, excessive salivation, and more. The infection eventually leads to unconsciousness and death.
Last year, five people in the US died of rabies, the highest number in a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Three of the deaths, including one involving a child, occurred as a result of direct contact with bats and occurred during a five-week period beginning in early September.
The patients died in Idaho, Illinois, and Texas, and all three had symptoms three to seven weeks after coming into touch with bats. Symptoms developed two to three weeks before death, according to the CDC.
When an infected animal bites another, its saliva spreads the virus that causes rabies. Although it has one of the worst mortality rates of any disease, it can be avoided: Vaccines given prior to the onset of symptoms are about 100 percent effective. Despite this, rabies kills roughly 59,000 people worldwide each year, with 40% of cases occurring in Africa and Asia, according to the World Health Organization.
The majority of deaths occur in countries with insufficient public health resources. Death from rabies is extremely rare in the United States; no cases or deaths were reported in 2019 or 2020. The increase in rabies cases, according to the CDC, could be due to a lack of understanding about the risks, given the number of infected bats reported to the National Rabies Surveillance System has been steady since 2007.
According to the CDC, four of the five patients who died in late 2021 did not receive the vaccine. According to the CDC, two of the patients did not receive immunizations because they were unaware of the risk of rabies from their exposures, either because they did not notice a bite or scratch or because they were unaware of the dangers of contracting rabies from bats.
“We have come a long way in the United States toward reducing the number of people who become infected each year with rabies,” says Ryan Wallace, a veterinarian and rabies expert at the CDC, “but this recent spate of cases is a sobering reminder that contact with bats poses a real health risk.”Advertising
Convulsions, fear of water, excessive salivation, and other symptoms can occur if the infection reaches the brain. The infection eventually leads to unconsciousness and death.
Rabies is nearly always lethal once symptoms appear.
According to a statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health, an 80-year-old man in Illinois who had a bat roost in his home awoke in August to find a bat on his neck. The bat was caught and tested positive for rabies, but the man refused to get vaccinated due to a long-standing allergy to immunizations. Before dying, the man began to experience neck pain, headaches, difficulties controlling his arms, finger numbness, and difficulty speaking around a month after coming into touch with the rabid bat.
Another incident occurred in Texas, where a child picked up a bat with his bare hands and then released it. After being bitten by a dog in the Philippines, a third person died in New York. After returning to the United States, he began to show symptoms, and the CDC was unable to ascertain why he had not received a vaccine.
A fourth patient from Minnesota who died from rabies last year received the vaccine but his weakened immune system did not respond to it, the CDC said.
In the early 1900s, rabies killed more than 100 people in the United States per year. Since 1960, the frequency of rabies cases has decreased to one or two per year as pet immunization, animal control programs, and public health surveillance have improved, and the rabies vaccine has been more widely available.
In 2018, three persons died from rabies, the second-highest amount in recent years. In 2011, six persons died from the disease.
In many nations, wandering, unvaccinated dogs pose the biggest threat of rabies. In the United States, however, bats are responsible for over 70% of rabies infections. People should avoid coming into touch with bats, according to the CDC.
If people come into contact with rabies, they should see their doctors or local public health officials see if rabies immunizations are required. Bat bites or scratches can be quite small and not evident in some circumstances.
When it’s uncertain whether a bat has been in contact with people, such as when bats enter homes while people are sleeping or when children are left alone, it’s critical to contact local health officials for advice. According to the CDC, about 60,000 people are vaccinated against rabies each year.
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