Missouri Department of Health officials are investigating a rabies death in a Cole County man who died last Friday. According to an ABC News 17 report Monday, John Emmerich of Eugene was hospitalized with severe neck pain, began shaking, trouble swallowing, and hallucinations two weeks ago.

Missouri map/ National Atlas of the United States
Missouri map/ National Atlas of the United States

Test results received recently from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had confirmed rabies, according to the family the report states. However, the Missouri Department of Health could not release any confidential medical information that has been reported to them, including confirming the cause of death, according to an email to Outbreak News Today.

“Headache, fevers, and then it’ll go into more serious neurological effects like hallucinations or things like that, and if somebody does contract rabies, the likelihood of someone surviving is very small,” said Ryan Hobart, the spokesman for the Department of Health and Senior Services.

It is not clear how Emmerich contracted the lethal virus.

Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. It is also rarely contracted through breaks in the skin or contact with mucousmembranes. It has been suggested that airborne transmission is possible in caves where there are heavyconcentrations of bats.

According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.

Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.

Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptoms then progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, thedisease is nearly 100% fatal.

Although worldwide it is estimated that there are more than 69,000 deaths due to rabies annually,human rabies cases are extremely rare in the United States, which averages  less than five human rabies cases annually.

Officials said if you are bitten to wash the wound immediately for 10-15 minutes, then call your healthcare provider and get vaccinated.

Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin. For moreinfectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page