Illinois Man Who Refused Treatment Dies of Rabies

Thomas Krob reportedly awoke last month to find a bat on his neck
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2021 9:30 AM CDT
He Found a Bat on His Neck, Died Weeks Later
A bat shows its teeth.   (Getty Images/michjh)

(Newser) – Illinois' first human case of rabies in 67 years turned into a fatal one. An elderly Lake County resident who awoke in mid-August to find a bat on his neck has died of the disease after declining medical treatment, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The man—identified by WLS as Thomas Krob, 87, of Spring Grove—declined post-exposure rabies treatment even after the bat, which belonged to a colony within the man's home, was captured and tested positive for rabies, a virus that attacks the central nervous system and causes the brain to swell, the department said.

A month after encountering the bat, he developed symptoms consistent with rabies, including neck pain, headache, speech difficulty, numbness in his fingers, and difficulty controlling his arms, and subsequently died. The CDC confirmed Tuesday that the man had rabies, marking the state's first human case since 1954, per CNN. Only one to three human cases are reported in the US each year. Bats cause about 70% of those, according to a 2019 CDC report. "They have very small teeth and so … you might not notice necessarily that you've been bitten. You might not feel it," Liza Lehrer of the Lincoln Park Zoo tells WLS.

"Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease" but "there is life-saving treatment for individuals who quickly seek care," IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says, per NBC Chicago. She urges anyone who may have been exposed to rabies to "immediately seek medical attention and follow the recommendations of health care providers and public health officials." Officials note those who may have been exposed to the virus through contact with the man have been given preventative treatment. An estimated 60,000 Americans receive such treatment annually. (Read more rabies stories.)

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