LAKE COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- A Lake County man has become the first human case of and death from rabies in Illinois since 1954, health officials said.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said in mid-August, a man in his 80s woke to find a bat on his neck. The bat was captured and tested positive for rabies. While health officials told the man he needed to start post-exposure rabies treatment, he declined.
"They have very small teeth and so if you were asleep or unaware, you might not notice necessarily that you've been bitten. You might not feel it," said Liza Lehrer, assistant director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Health officials said a month later he began experiencing rabies symptoms, and died. The McHenry County coroner identified the man as 87-year-old Spring Grove resident Thomas Krob. While Krob was a resident of Lake County, he died at a McHenry County hospital.
Symptoms of rabies infections include neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling arms, finger numbness and difficulty speaking. In Krob's case they took a month to appear.
IDPH officials said people who had been in contact with Krob's bodily fluids were assessed and given rabies preventative treatment as needed.
Rabies is exceedingly rare in humans, with only one to three cases reported each year, rabies exposure is still common. An estimated 60,000 Americans receive post-exposure vaccinations every year. Without preventative treatment, rabies is fatal.
Bats are the most common species with rabies in Illinois. IDPH officials said they found a bat colony in Krob's home.
"You might not even be aware you have a colony of bats in your attic," Leherer "Occasionally they might be following air pathways or wind tunnels or something that might bring them downstairs to living quarters."
Officials said so far this year 30 bats have tested positive for rabies in Illinois, and more than 1,000 bats are tested for rabies each year after possible rabies exposure. Approximately 3% of tested bats test positive for rabies.