Idaho Man Dies in First Case of Rabies in Over 40 Years

by Courtney Blackann

In a rare case, a man from Idaho has died from rabies. This marks the first time in more than 40 years that rabies has caused a death, according to officials. The last known death was in 1978.

The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare announced the death of the man from Boise County Thursday. The man came into contact with a bat in August after it got caught in his clothes, though he didn’t realize it scratched him or bit him at the time. It wasn’t until October that he got sick and sought medical treatment, according to Fox News. But by then, it was too late.

“This tragic case highlights how important it is that Idahoans are aware of the risk of rabies exposure,” Idaho State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said. “Although deaths are rare, it is critical that people exposed to a bat receive appropriate treatment to prevent the onset of rabies as soon as possible.”

Officials Warn to Seek Treatment of Rabies

Now officials are giving preventative care to those in the hospital who may have been exposed when the man with rabies came in to be treated.

Of 159 bats treated for rabies, eleven percent tested positive for rabies, officials said. Additionally, the state is urging those who’ve come into contact with a bat to seek treatment.

“Our main focus is to make sure that people are aware that if they have any contact with a bat, they should seek medical advice on whether to seek treatment or not. You cannot tell if a bat is rabid or not by looking at them. With rabies, bats are more likely to become lethargic than aggressive. The important message is to always avoid direct contact with bats,” Idaho Department of Health & Welfare spokesperson Nikki Forbing-Orr said.

Further, the Center for Disease Control said that rabies can be contracted through bites or scratches from wild animals. These include bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.

Illinois Man Dies of Rabies

In another case this year, a man died of rabies after also coming into contact with a bat. The 80-year-old man opted not to be treated after the incident and died due to the disease.

“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease. 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 may have been exposed to rabies, immediately seek medical attention and follow the recommendations of health care providers and public health officials,” Illinois Department of Public Health official  director Ngozi Ezike said.

Symptoms of the disease include neck pain, headaches, difficulty speaking, finger numbness and control of the arms.