The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday warned Americans to beware of interactions with bats after three people, including one child, died from rabies last year.
The deaths happened in Idaho, Illinois, and Texas between Sept. 28 and Nov. 3. Two of the interactions could have been avoided, according to the CDC.
One involved a bat roost in a person’s home and the other involved someone picking up the bat with his bare hands.
None of the patients received post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), shots that can prevent rabies from developing if received before symptoms start. One patient refused the shots due to a "long-standing fear of vaccines."
The other two did not realize they were at risk for rabies.
There were five total number of rabies cases in 2021, compared to zero in 2019 and 2020.
"We have come a long way in the United States towards reducing the number of people who become infected each year with rabies, but this recent spate of cases is a sobering reminder that contact with bats poses a real health risk," Dr. Ryan Wallace, a veterinarian and rabies expert in the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said in a press release.
The CDC in its memo warned people to never touch or handle bats.
Bats spread rabies through infected saliva. Once symptoms begin, including weakness or discomfort, fever, headache, and hallucinations, rabies is nearly always fatal.
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