An older teen has become the first vampire bat death in the US after the young man contracted rabies from a bite, officials have disclosed.
The 19-year-old migrant farm worker was originally from Mexico, and has not been publicly identified. The actual vampire bat bite occurred on July 15th of last year, while the teen was sleeping in his family’s home in Michoacán, Mexico. The victim did not seek medical attention for the bite, and crossed over into the US on July 29th to work on a sugar cane plantation in Louisiana.
By August 3rd, the teen became so ill he was hospitalized. Puzzled physicians tested the young man for a battery of possible illnesses, including encephalitis, meningitis, HIV, syphilis, herpes, arboviruses, Lyme disease and autoimmune afflictions, but were unable to pin down what was causing the patient to deteriorate so rapidly.
Eventually, rabies was floated as a possible cause of the teen’s life threatening symptoms, but doctors did not come to the conclusion until August 20th, and the young man passed away in the hospital on August 21st. In the months since the victim succumbed to the rabies contracted by the bat bite, public health officials have notified everyone who had come in contact with the teen to warn them that they may have been exposed to rabies.
So far, no one who was exposed through the teen seems to have contracted rabies. Although officials did not give a reason for publicizing the case now, they did say that vampire bat deaths could become more common- the species is generally seen in Latin America, but changes in climate could be causing vampire bats to move up North. The CDC says:
“Expansion of vampire bats into the United States likely would lead to increased bat exposures to both humans and animals (including domestic livestock and wildlife species) and substantially alter rabies virus dynamics and ecology in the southern United States.”
Vampire bats are not found in the US outside of zoos.