CDC reports increase in human rabies cases linked to bats

Three cases of individuals with confirmed rabies after contact with bats died within a five-week period between Sept. 28 and Nov. 3, 2021.
Mgn 1280x960 01026p00 Platb

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported an increase in human rabies deaths in the U.S.

Three cases of individuals with confirmed rabies after contact with bats died within a five-week period between Sept. 28 and Nov. 3, 2021. According to the CDC, the three cases were from Idaho, Illinois and Texas.

The CDC considers two of the bat cases as avoidable exposures, one attributed to a bat roost in a home and the other one picking up a bat with bare hands. The three individuals did not receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) shots that prevent rabies from developing.

PEP shots are 100% effective at preventing rabies if received before symptoms start, according to the CDC.

“We have come a long way in the United States towards reducing the number of people who become infected each year with rabies, but this recent spate of cases is a sobering reminder that contact with bats poses a real health risk,” said Ryan Wallace, DVM, MPH, a veterinarian and rabies expert in CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.

The CDC reported a total of five rabies deaths in 2021, compared to no reported cases in 2019 and 2020. Due to the increase, the CDC is raising awareness of the risks of rabies from bats.

According to the CDC, rabid bats account for 70% of human rabies cases in the U.S.

The CDC urges people to take the following steps to prevent the infection of rabies:

  1. Avoid direct contact with bats.
  2. If you do come into contact with a bat or if someone possibly had contact with a bat, do the following:
    1. Call your state or local health department or animal control to help trap the bat for testing.
    2. contact your doctor or a local public health official to assess whether PEP is needed.

If a bat bite tasks place through clothing and bite marks are not visible, the CDC says to still go through the steps just in case.

More information about rabies can be found here.

Categories: News, US & World