State Health officials report first human rabies death in Indiana

“I was saddened to hear of an individual dying from rabies and my sincerest condolences to the family for their loss,” said State Health Commissioner Judy Monroe, M.D.  “Although rabies is a rare disease, it is a fatal disease.  If anyone is bitten by a bat or other suspected rabid animal, they should seek medical attention immediately.”

Rabies is almost 100 percent fatal. It is estimated 55,000 people die worldwide from rabies each year.  Vaccination of domestic animals has greatly reduced the risk of rabies in the United States, but state health officials report it is still a serious concern.  Rabies post-exposure-prophylaxis is one dose of rabies immune globulin on the first day of treatment plus a dose of vaccine in the arm.  A dose of vaccine is given in the arm 3, 7, and 14 days after the first dose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory.  But any bat that is active in the day, is not able to fly, or is found in a place where bats are usually not seen, is very easy to approach, is far more likely to have rabies.  As a result, bats should never be handled.  Less than one percent of bats in the wild are rabid, but bites by bats are considered high risk.

“Early intervention is the key to preventing rabies,” said Dr. Monroe.  “I also urge Hoosiers to take precautions to avoid (bat) bites.  The first step is to bat-proof your house.  Second, don’t handle bats.  And again, if you are bitten, don’t wait, get proper medical attention.  Rabies is a preventable disease if rabies vaccine is administered immediately. “

Other precautions include:

·If you or other family members are awakened by a bat or a bat is seen in the room of a child or disabled person, try to capture the bat in a sealable container. If caught, do not release the bat. Submit it to your local health department for rabies testing.

· To capture a bat, use leather work gloves, a small box or coffee can, a piece of cardboard, and tape. When the bat lands, place the box or can over it, and slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard to the container and punch small holes in the cardboard to allow the bat to breathe. Contact your local health department to submit the animal.

· If you are bitten, or come in close contact with a bat, immediately discuss it with your local health department and physician to determine whether or not you should receive treatment.

· If you believe your pet has been bitten, contact a veterinarian.

· Contact a pest control specialist, for assistance in bat-proofing your home. Bats can enter through a hole as small as one-quarter inch.

For more information on rabies, visit the Indiana State Department of Health website at: www.statehealth.in.gov.

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