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Idaho Reports First Death from Rabies Since 1978
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The big brown bat is the most common bat found in Idaho.
   
Friday, November 5, 2021
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

An Idaho man has died of rabies after an encounter with a bat in what is the first human case of rabies and subsequent death reported in Idaho since 1978.

The man, who lives in Boise County—home to Idaho City and Garden Valley—encountered a bat on his property in late August. 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, subsequently dying. The bat exposure was not discovered until after the investigation into his illness began.  The Centers for Disease Control confirmed the diagnosis.

Public health officials are wokring with the family and health care providers in Boise where the man was treated to identify others who may have been exposed. Anyone found to come in contact with the individual’s secretions will be given rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin, 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.”

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. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Without preventive treatment, rabies is almost always fatal. 

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.

Bats have such tiny teeth that bite marks may not always be visible. Those who wake up to a bat in their bedroom, tent or cabin and are not sure if they’ve been exposed should not release the bat, as it should be captured for rabies testing.

The only way rabies can be confirmed is through laboratory testing.

Fourteen bats have tested positive for rabies in Idaho during 2021. Eleven of the 159 bats that were tested in 2020 turned out to have rabies.

 

 


 

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