Nearly everybody is familiar with rabies...or are they? Sure, we've heard the word thousands and thousands of times, especially those of us with pets who take them for their rabies shot every year.

Maybe you saw (and were scarred for life) Old Yeller or Cujo, and assumed that rabies turned normal, loving animals into vicious killers that forced someone into shooting them.

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The Culprit In This Case Wasn't A Rabid Dog, But A Rabid Bat

This horrible event started back in August, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), when a Lake County man, described as being "in his 80s," woke up in his bedroom to find a bat on his neck.

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In one small instance of good luck, the bat was captured for testing. However, that good luck was short-lived as the tests on the bat came back positive for rabies. IDPH:

The individual was advised he needed to start post-exposure rabies treatment but declined. One month later, the individual began experiencing symptoms consistent with rabies, including neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, finger numbness, and difficulty speaking. The individual subsequently died.

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If You're Looking For A Stone Cold Killer, Rabies Is It

With so much of our attention caught up in COVID-19, it's pretty easy to overlook just how deadly rabies can be. According to IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, "rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease."

Another reason that many of us know so little about rabies is because incidents of rabies infection among Americans is stunningly low, especially when you compare today with the past. Only 1 to 3 cases are reported every year in the United States, but over 60,000 Americans get the post-exposure vaccinations each year.

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The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that worldwide, rabies causes about 59,000 deaths each year, with about two occurring in the US. According to a CDC report, from 1960 to 2018, the US reported just 125 human rabies cases, 36 of which were attributed to dog bites during international travel. For the 89 infections acquired within the US, 62 were attributed to bats.

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