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LAKE COUNTY, Ill. — An elderly north suburban man has died from rabies — the first human case in Illinois since 1954.

In mid-August, a Lake County man in his 80s woke up with a bat on his neck. The species was collected and subsequently tested positive for rabies.

Health officials urged the man to start post-exposure rabies treatment, due the its high mortality rate, but the man declined.

One month later, officials said the man began experiencing symptoms consistent with rabies — including neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, finger numbness and difficulty speaking.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Without preventive treatment, rabies is typically fatal.

“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “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.”

If you find yourself in close proximity to a bat and are not sure if you were exposed, do not release the bat as it should be appropriately captured for rabies testing. Call your doctor or local health department to help determine if you could have been exposed and call animal control to remove the bat.

So far this year, 30 bats have tested positive for rabies in Illinois.