Child Bitten by Bat Develops ‘Rare Case of Human Rabies’

Nov. 3, 2021

A child in Texas who was bitten by a bat has developed “a rare case of human rabies,” Texas Health and Human Services said in a news release.

The release didn’t give the child’s condition or reveal specifics about the case, other than saying the child is a resident of Medina County, west of San Antonio, and is being treated in a Texas hospital.

Health officials are trying to determine whether anybody else who came in contact with the bat or the child needs vaccination to prevent them from developing rabies.

“Once someone becomes sick with rabies, it is almost always fatal,” the release said. “However, the illness is preventable if rabies vaccine and immune globulin are administered before symptoms start.”

Texas Health and Human Services didn’t say if treatment started before the symptoms.
The treatment for rabies is a vaccine -- postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). People who suspect they have rabies will be given one dose of fast-acting rabies immune globulin, which prevents them from getting infected by the virus. Four rabies vaccine shots over the next 14 days will follow.

The last human case of rabies in a Texas resident occurred in 2009. The CDC says one to three cases of human rabies are reported each year.

Rabies is a virus that attacks the central nervous system. It usually spreads through a deep bite or scratch from an infected animal. In the United States, rabies is mostly found in wild animals like coyotes, raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes, but nearly all humans infected with the virus got it from pet dogs.

Texas Health and Human Services says that nearly 600 animals tested positive for rabies across all regions of the state last year -- about half of them bats.

Usually, no symptoms appear right away, and the virus may incubate for one to three months. First symptoms include fever, fatigue, pain, and tingling at the site of the wound. As the virus spreads through the nervous system, people may have trouble sleeping, be confused, and experience anxiety. Eventually, the symptoms give way to coma, heart or lung failure, and death.