Rabid Bat Rabies Warning

Case

Last September a California man died from rabies about 6 weeks after being bitten by a bat. The bat bit him on the right index finger while he was in bed. After being bitten, the man washed the wound but did not seek medical attention. Five weeks later, he began to develop symptoms of rabies. In spite of medical treatment, the man died a week later.

Prevention

How could this man's death have been prevented?

Anyone bitten by a potentially rabid animal should immediately disinfect the wound (the man did wash the bite), capture the animal safely (the man did catch the bat but let it fly away), contact both the local health department and be seen right away by a physician to determine whether rabies PEP treatment is needed. (PEP is postexposure prophylaxis.) In this case, when the man finally did seek medical attention, it was too late.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

Related Links


Human Death Associated with Bat Rabies --- California, 2003

Rabies is a rapidly progressive, incurable viral encephalitis that is, with rare exception, transmitted by the bite of an infected mammal. On September 14, 2003, a previously healthy man aged 66 years who resided in Trinity County, California, died from rabies approximately 6 weeks after being bitten by a bat. This report summarizes the investigation by the Trinity and Shasta County Health Departments and the California Department of Health Services (CDHS). Persons should avoid direct contact with bats; however, if such contact occurs, the exposed person should visit a health-care provider immediately, and the exposure should be reported to local public health officials.