US records 5 rabies deaths in 2021, highest number in a decade

US records 5 rabies deaths in 2021, highest number in a decade


Five people in the United States died of rabies last year, the highest number in a decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Three of these deaths, including that of a 7-year-old child, were direct contact with bats and occurred over a period of five weeks from the end of September. The deaths occurred in Idaho, Illinois, and Texas, and all three people experienced symptoms three to seven weeks after exposure to bats. They died two to three weeks after symptoms began, according to a CDC report.

Rabies is caused by a virus that is usually transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal through a bite. It has one of the highest mortality rates of any disease, but death is preventable: vaccines taken before symptoms appear are nearly 100 percent effective. Still, rabies causes about 59,000 deaths around the world each year.

Most deaths occur in countries where public health resources are inadequate. Death from rabies is extremely rare in the United States – no cases or deaths were reported in 2019 and 2020. The CDC said the surge in rabies cases could be due to a lack of awareness of the risks, as the number of rabies reported to the National Rabies Monitoring System has been stable since 2007.

Four of the five people who died in late 2021 weren’t given a vaccine or a scratch, or because they didn’t realize the risks of rabies infection from bats, according to the CDC, the CDC said.

“The most important thing we wanted to take away from this report is that it is a reminder of how dangerous direct contact with bats can be,” said Amber Kunkel, a disease control officer for the CDC

Once the virus reaches the brain, it can cause convulsions, fear of water, excessive salivation, and other symptoms. Eventually, the infection causes coma and death.

Once symptoms start, rabies is almost always fatal.

In one case, an Illinois man who was roosting at his home woke up in August and found a bat on his neck, according to a statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health. The bat was caught and tested positive for rabies, but the man refused to be vaccinated because he had long been afraid of vaccines. About a month after coming into contact with the rabid bat, the man developed neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, numbness of fingers, and difficulty speaking before he died.

In another case, a child in Texas picked up a bat with their bare hands and then released it. A third person died in New York after being bitten by a dog in the Philippines. After returning to the United States, he began to develop symptoms. The CDC said it could not determine why the man had not received a vaccine.

A fourth person from Minnesota who died of rabies last year received the vaccine, but his weakened immune system did not respond, the CDC said.

More than 100 people died of rabies each year in the United States in the early 1900s. That number has dropped to one or two a year since 1960, when pet vaccination, animal control programs, and public health surveillance improved, and the rabies vaccine became increasingly available. Three people died of rabies in 2018, the second highest number in recent years. In 2011, six people died of rabies.

“We have come a long way in the United States reducing the number of people who contract rabies each year,” Ryan Wallace, a veterinarian and rabies expert at the CDC, said in a statement, “but this most recent Flood of cases “is a sobering reminder that contact with bats is a real health hazard.”

In many countries, the greatest risk of rabies is from stray, unvaccinated dogs. However, in the United States, about 70 percent of rabies infections are due to bats. The CDC urges people to avoid contact with bats. If contact does occur, people should speak to their doctors or local health authorities to determine if rabies vaccinations are needed. Bat bites or scratches can be very small and, in some cases, not noticeable.

When it is unclear whether there has been contact with a bat, for example in cases where bats enter homes while sleeping or children have been left unattended, it is important that people seek help immediately from local health authorities. According to a CDC estimate, around 60,000 people receive rabies vaccinations each year.



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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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