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Wisconsin Teenager Diagnosed With Human Rabies
By Juliet Williams, Associated Press
MILWAUKEE - A teenager has been diagnosed as having a rare case of human rabies, only the second case in Wisconsin in nearly 50 years, health officials said Wednesday.
Only three people in the world are known to have survived after the onset of rabies symptoms, said Jim Kazmierczak, Wisconsin's state public health veterinarian. Nearly all patients die within a few weeks of developing symptoms.
Kazmierczak said the Fond du Lac County teen was bitten by a bat in September but did not seek treatment. Rabies can be prevented with a vaccine after initial exposure, but health officials can do little for victims once symptoms set in.
The bat bite was "a minor exposure that was deemed as unsignificant," Kazmierczak said. "It's tragic."
Health officials refused to provide the teen's identity or condition.
Kazmierczak said the patient started having symptoms Oct. 13 and was hospitalized Oct. 15. A lab test performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed Tuesday the child has rabies.
Kazmierczak said the earliest symptoms often are tingling or numbness in the limb or area where there was a bite, followed by a lack of coordination, agitation, headache, hallucinations and seizures. Eventually, the patient goes into a coma and dies.
The CDC said most people do not show symptoms of the disease until one to three months after being infected with the virus.
The last two human rabies cases in Wisconsin were in 2000 and 1959, Kazmierczak said.
In Wisconsin, skunks and bats are the most likely animal species to carry the rabies virus, although dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes and livestock also have been infected in the past several years, according to the Department of Health and Family Services.
Although human-to-human transmission is rare, state health officials were working with the Fond du Lac County Health Department and local health care providers to assess the any possible risks to people who came in contact with the teen.
The preventive treatment for rabies is a one-time injection of a drug called rabies immune globulin that contains antibodies against the virus, followed by five doses of rabies vaccines injected into the arm in the next 28 days.