A Lake County man died after being bit by a rabid bat in August, the first reported human case of rabies in the state since 1954, according to a Tuesday news release from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Thomas Krob, 87, of Spring Grove woke up with a bat on his neck in August, part of what wildlife experts would later find was a bat colony in the man’s home. The bat was caught and tested positive for rabies, but the man declined treatment, according to the release.
A month after he was bitten, Krob started experiencing neck pain, headaches, finger numbness and difficulty speaking, all symptoms consistent with rabies, and he later died, the release said.
McHenry County Coroner Dr. Michael Rein said his office was contacted Sept. 20 about Krob’s death and an autopsy confirmed Krob had contracted rabies.
Human rabies cases are rare, the Health Department said, with only one to three cases reported a year, but about 60,000 Americans receive post-exposure rabies vaccinations each year.
“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “However, there is life-saving treatment for individuals who quickly seek care after being exposed to an animal with rabies.”
This year, 30 bats have tested positive for rabies in Illinois, according to the release, and more than 1,000 bats are tested annually in the state after possible exposure. People who think they may have been exposed should contact their doctor and local animal control so the bat can be tested for rabies.