The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Central District Health are reporting the first human case of rabies and subsequent death reported in Idaho since 1978. The rabies case was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In late August, a Boise County man encountered a bat on his property. It flew near him and became caught in his clothing, but he did not believe he had been bitten or scratched. In October, he fell ill and was hospitalized in Boise, where he subsequently died. It was not until after the investigation into his illness began that the bat exposure was discovered.
Public health officials are working closely with the family and healthcare providers. Central District Health is working with the hospital where he was treated to identify people who may have been exposed. Those who had contact with secretions from the individual are being assessed and will be given rabies preventive treatment as needed.
“This tragic case highlights how important it is that Idahoans are aware of the risk of rabies exposure,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn. “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.”
“Idahoans are reminded that bats can become infected with rabies. While bats can be beneficial to our environment, people should be wary of any bat encounter, including waking up to a bat in your room, or any situation where there may have been a bite or scratch,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian.
Bats are the most commonly identified species with rabies in Idaho. “Every year we have several people and pets exposed to rabies in our district, generally spring through fall,” said Central District Health Communicable Disease Control Program Manager Lindsay Haskell. “We want our residents and visitors to Idaho to be informed of the risk of rabies, to take appropriate steps to limit risk, and to take action when necessary.”
Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease. While cases of human rabies in the United States are rare, rabies exposures are common, with an estimated 60,000 Americans receiving the post-exposure vaccination series each year.
This is the third human rabies case reported in the US this year. Earlier cases were reported in Illinois and Texas, both due to bat bites.
Learn more about rabies in this recent livestream:
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