U.S. Had Highest Rabies Death Total In A Decade In 2021

Five Americans died in relation to rabies infections in 2021, which was the highest total during any year in a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via ABC News.

The CDC released a report on three of the deaths Thursday (January 6), which occurred in the later months of the year, and confirmed they all stemmed from bats and could have been prevented.

An 80-year-old Illinois man who woke up to find a bat on his neck died weeks later in November after he refused to take life-saving shots over his fear of vaccines.

An Idaho man and a Texas boy who were also exposed to rabies decided not to get their shots because they didn’t believe the bat bite or scratch broke their skin, according to the CDC.

Ryan Wallace, a CDC rabies expert who co-authored the report obtained by ABC News, wrote that all three of the individuals mentioned “either trivialized the exposure (to bats) or they didn’t recognize the severity of rabies.”

Two additional rabies-related deaths were reported to have taken place earlier in the year.

A Minnesota man was bitten by a bat and received shots, but a previously undiagnosed immune system issue obstructed the effectiveness of the treatment, according to the CDC.

Another victim died in New York after being bitten by a rabid dog during a trip to the Philippines.

The U.S. averages only one to three reported human rabies cases annually and, once clinical symtoms appear, the disease is typically fatal, according to data from the CDC via NBC News.

However, rabies exposure is still common with 30,000 to 60,000 individuals receiving post-exposure vaccination treatment in the U.S. per year, according to the CDC.

Most rabies deaths among humans in the U.S. come after exposure to bats, but other common wildlife vulnerable to the disease include racoons, skunks and foxes.

Globally, rabies causes the most deaths in Asia and Africa as dogs are typically the most common source of transmission to humans, the World Health Organization reports.

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