Illinois Man Dies From Rabies After Waking Up With Bat on His Neck

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

He refused preventive treatment after the bat tested positive for rabies

An 80-year-old Illinois man died from rabies after waking up in bed to discover a bat on his neck a month earlier. The Illinois Department of Public Health says it was the first death due to rabies in the state since 1954. 

According to, the man was bitten in Lake County while he slept. The bat was captured and tested positive for rabies, but the victim declined post-exposure treatment when he was told of the positive test. A month later, the man began to suffer from neck and head pain, had difficulty controlling his arms and speaking, and his fingers went numb. He eventually died.

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“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “However, there is life-saving treatment for individuals who quickly seek care after being exposed to an animal with rabies. If you think you may have been exposed to rabies, immediately seek medical attention and follow the recommendations of health care providers and public health officials.”

Without preventive treatment, the rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain, which leads to death. 

Illinois tests more than 1,000 bats for rabies each year due to possible exposures and about 3% test positive for the disease. Thirty bats have tested positive for rabies in Illinois so far this year. 

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