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Yes, people can still — and do — die from rabies in the United States

Rabies won’t kill you — as long as get you treatment.
Can Rabies Be Cured Bats
Photo: Getty Images

Bats don’t actually fly around looking to suck on the blood of unsuspecting humans, but they do bite — and some of them carry rabies.

Unfortunately, a Florida man learned that the hard way after receiving a bite from a bat infected with rabies. He didn’t seek treatment and died a short time later, according to the Florida Department of Health.

How is rabies transmitted?

Officials recommend getting treatment after any bite from a wild animal — even if you don’t think they have rabies — because treatment is effective almost 100 percent of the time, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. So is rabies curable? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you should brush off the risk. The CDC also says that fewer than 10 people have survived an untreated rabies bite.

It’s that serious.

Bats are one of the animals known for having rabies, but raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes are more likely to carry the disease. The symptoms show up soon after a bite and are very similar to the flu with fever, headache and general fatigue that lasts for several days. Left untreated, symptoms progress into anxiety, confusion, delirium, hallucinations and, eventually, death.

Treatment for rabies

Rabies treatment isn’t exactly pleasant, but it’s a lot easier now than in the past.

The first rabies treatment was developed by French scientist Louis Pasteur in the 1880s and used dried pieces spinal cord taken from rabid bunnies. The vaccine evolved over the years and used everything from duck egg embryos to animal brains as a base. Treatment during most of the 20th century required 21 painful shots in the stomach with a long needle, but that stopped in the early 1980s.

“Let me tell you why you get to have 4 shots in the arm instead of 21 in the belly: in one word — my Mom. There were 11 of us who went through the rabies series in the 70’s because my cat got bit by a bat and died of rabies,” the daughter of Mary Bigelow told The Huffington Post. “My Mom had a reaction to the duck embryo so they used her as a guinea pig for the brand new human serum. When we were all done with the horrible belly shots, we donated our blood so they could create the human serum they now use!”

The “human serum” is one shot of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) followed by four doses of the rabies vaccine given at certain intervals.

Your best bet for avoiding rabies? Don’t pal up to wild animals — and call animal control if those little bats get inside your house. They might be cute, but they’re not worth the risk.

 
 
 
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