Minnesota man, 84, dies of rabies after rabid bat bite despite timely treatment as undiagnosed immune condition likely made vaccines less effective during treatment.
A man in Minnesota died from rabies last year fter waking up to find a rabid bat biting his hand, US health officials have revealed.
The 84-year-old, who has not been named, shook the animal away and quickly washed his hands with soap before returning to bed with his wife.
The couple was administered post-exposure prophylaxis rabies treatment that included a series of rabies vaccines and antibody injections.
But five months later, the man returned to the hospital complaining of severe pain in the right side of his face and excessive tearing in the eye.
He died 15 days later after suffering severe brain and spinal cord swelling, according to a new report released in the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
First recorded US case of a rabies patient dying after receiving treatment
Medics said this was the first recorded US case of a rabies patient dying after receiving prophylaxis treatment in a ‘timely and appropriate’ manner.
Rabies is almost always a fatal infection unless patients are administered medications before symptoms emerge.
It is caused by a virus that targets the central nervous system, triggering inflammation in the brain and spinal cords.
People can become infected by rabid animals — including bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes — typically via the saliva of infected animals.
Symptoms typically start three to eight weeks after becoming infected and begin as a fever, headache, muscle weakness and general discomfort. But then it will progress to confusion, agitation, hallucinations, paralysis and coma.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there are typically two to three human deaths from rabies reported in the United States every year.
But in 2021, the latest date available, five fatalities were recorded including the 84-year-old man and a seven-year-old boy. Four patients were bitten by bats and one by a dog in the Philippines.
Undiagnosed immune condition cited
Dr Stacy Holzbauer, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said the report summarizes ‘the first reported failure of rabies [treatment] in the western hemisphere’.
They suggested the treatments failed because the patients had an undiagnosed immune condition, which made the vaccines less effective the Daily Mail reported.
The bite occurred on July 27, 2020, but the man did not fall ill with the disease until January of the following year.
He had several underlying conditions, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney problems and an enlarged prostate.
Upon his first trip to the hospital, he received a rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) drug and three doses of the rabies vaccine.
The man went to hospital three times complaining of sudden pain on the right side of his face and tearing of the right eye before being admitted.
By this time, however, facial pain had worsened and he started to suffer night sweats, right eye redness, facial paralysis and left ear pain.
Further swabs revealed that the man had encephalitis, or a swelling of the brain and spinal cord. He also developed a fever of 103.1F (39.5C).
Medics intubated the man to support his breathing but the decision was eventually taken to withdraw treatment. He died 15 days after symptoms appeared.
Testing revealed that he had contracted rabies which was identical to that in the bat that bit his hand.