A bat bit a man while he was sleeping. He died of rabies a month later.

·2 min read

An Illinois man was bitten by a bat in his sleep and later died of rabies – the first human case in the state since 1954.

The man, who was in his 80s, woke up with a bat on his neck in mid-August and declined treatment for post-exposure rabies, the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a press release warning people of "bats that could be in your home."

A month later, the man began to experience symptoms associated with rabies exposure, including neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, finger numbness and difficulty speaking.

The bat was captured and tested positive for the disease. The man died a short time later.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control confirmed the diagnosis through testing on Tuesday.

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

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According to the CDC, most bats do not have rabies, although most people in the U.S. become infected with the disease through the nocturnal mammal.

Human cases are rare, with only one to two reported each year in the U.S.

"Once symptoms begin, rabies is almost always fatal, making it vital that an exposed person receive appropriate treatment to prevent the onset of rabies as soon as possible,” Mark Pfister, Lake County Health Department executive director, said in the release.

The Illinois health department recommends calling your doctor or local health department if you are ever in close proximity to a bat. The only way rabies can be confirmed in the animal is by laboratory testing.

"You cannot tell just by looking at a bat if it has rabies," the statement said.

Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: agilbert@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Illinois man dies of rabies after bat bites him while he's sleeping

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