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Daily Journal
     September 30, 2021      #95-273 KDJ

EDITORIAL: Your actions dictate outcome in rabies

Daily Journal Editorial Board

You wake up in the middle of the night to find a bat in your bedroom. What do you do?

After a brief moment of screeching (it’s OK, we understand), your response is likely to open a door or window and usher it out of the house. While that may seem like the appropriate response, it’s not.

That’s what we learned this week after publishing a report on Illinois’ first rabies death since 1954. An Illinois man died a month after waking to find a bat on his neck.

Fortunately, that bat was captured and tested for rabies instead of simply being removed from the home. Unfortunately, the man denied post-exposure treatment.

So, there are two lessons to be learned from this one news report.

First, if you find a bat in your home and are unsure of how long it’s been present — and therefore unsure of your exposure to it — it needs to be captured and tested. Also, its capture is something best left to the professionals, so isolate the animal in an enclosed room and contact a wildlife service provider or the local animal control.

(Now, if you saw the bat enter the home and know there’s been no possibility of exposure, then by all means give it its walking papers. Do so by closing the door to the room it’s in and leaving a window open until it finds its way out. Do not swat at the bat or otherwise try to move it as that will likely only make matters worse.)

Second, if the animal was captured and found to have rabies and you’re encouraged to take post-exposure measures, please do so.

We can’t say it better than Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike did in Wednesday’s story, so we will just let her repeat herself here.

“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease. 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.”

We can’t agree with her more.

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