Tuesday, November 17, 2009

First Michigan Human Rabies Death Since 1983

rabies virus
Electron micrograph of the Rabies Virus (photo by CDC, public domain)
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Few details are being released, but Region #10 Department of public health has reported that a man has died from rabies. This is the first known human death from the virus in Michigan since 1983. Region #10 covers Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Newaygo, Oceana and Wexford Counties, so one can assume that the death occurred in this area.

The disease was contracted by contact with a bat, although it has not been stated whether the man was actually bitten. Bats are the most frequent carriers of the virus in Michigan, although fewer than 1% of the animals are infected. Other common carriers are foxes, skunks, raccoons and coyotes.

Only 55 cases of rabies have been diagnosed in the United States since 1990. By the time symptoms appear in a human, the virus has probably reached the brain, and no treatment is possible. However, if contact is made with a wild animal that is acting strangely, one should always seek treatment immediately so that vaccine can be administered in time to prevent the disease from spreading, and ultimate death. Infected animals may lose their fear of humans, act aggressively or in an agitated manner. They may drool or be unsteady on their feet if the disease has progressed.

The virus is transmitted through the saliva of the infected animal. If one is bitten by a wild animal one should wash the wound with soap and water, and seek medical attention. If possible, the animal should be captured and tested. If bitten, also call the local health department and animal control office.

See rabies information from the Michigan DNR.
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